I'm not going to review or "open thread" Mock The Week all series, as I'm not sure there's anything left to say. The show, now in its fifth year and ninth series, is still dogged by problems; some of which it's always had but continues to live with like benign tumours, others more recent and increasingly problematic.
Like him or loathe him, the departure of Frankie Boyle two series ago has left MTW feeling toothless, with less of a "must see" feel about it; I remain unconvinced Russell Howard's anything beyond a competent stand-up who ticks the BBC's "yoof" box; middle-of-the-road Andy Parsons can't believe his luck he's employed in something so popular; and Hugh Dennis might as well not turn up these days (although it's fun seeing him sit there twiddling his thumbs, gazing around at times). Surrounded by quick-thinking stand-ups, Dennis clearly only thrives with a Radio 4 script in his hand. Dara O'Briain is now the best comedian on the show, but as host he can't do much except occasionally interject for a brief spell.
And the hybrid panel show/improv format's still an issue. The "stand-up round" is tailored to people's on-stage routines, so often have only passing relevance to the day's news. And in this opening episode only three of the six players even participated, instead of the usual four. Maybe Russell Howard, like Frankie Boyle, is beginning to feel the strain of coming up with fresh material every week, particularly now he has his own show on BBC3 to write for? Other rounds look increasingly daft, particularly the one where the teams just make up funny phrases that fit the acronym of a tabloid headline. Surely something so immature and easy is beneath professional comedians.
I guess it's just becoming more obvious that MTW's relevance as satire is tenuous. It's little more than a bun fight between comedians, taking many hours to film, whittled down to a half-hour of highlights with little breathing room. But I guess people expecting incisive satire don't watch MTW for that, just people who like stand-up and read The Sun enough to recognize a few of the topics being joked about.
The whole show's as unbalanced as its guest's seating arrangements (two for Hugh's team, one for Andy and Russell); the irregular female players (Diane Morgan this week) barely get a word in edgeways, but blossom when given an opportunity with no chance of interruption (mainly during the standup round); and while there are still some gags that hit their marks (and the "Scenes We'd Like To See" finale still deserves its own show), I think Mock The Week's past its best and is now easy schedule-filler for Dave as repeats.
17 JUNE 2010: BBC2, 10PM