Friday, 20 May 2011


Friday, 20 May 2011

The idea of a TV gameshow based on a pub quiz, hosted by Al Murray's comic creation the Pub Landlord, must have seemed like a great idea for digital channel Dave. Indeed, whenever Compete For The Meat was relying on Murray talking to members of the public (repartee the comedian's honed over 15 years playing to audiences across the UK), it was on much surer footing--even if Murray's interactions have become annoyingly, half-intentionally predictable.

Compete For The Meat started with a promising 15-minute introduction and set-up, with Murray chatting to the "front row" audience (mocking their names, ages and occupations), before applying the same ridicule to a celebrity "top table" comprised of ex-England goalie Peter Shilton, alleged funnygirl Olivia Lee and gnomic TV consumer activist Dominic Littlewood. From there, four pub team trios were introduced in a Blankety Blank-esque two-tier set, and Murray again poked fun at their gender, nationality and jobs. Three attractive lady retailers, an Aussie, a professional food taster, and a dog groomer inspired decent quips, at least.

So far, so repetitive? Oh yes, but I remember the days of Strike It Lucky/Rich, when a pre-scandal Michael Barrymore's interaction with contestants lasted half the show and was often the main reason to watch. That proved to be true with Compete The Meat, too, but with the insurmountable problem that Meat's quiz was tedious and surprisingly insubstantial considering it had to fill three-quarters of an hour. Questions were asked in a chosen topic, answers were jotted down, papers were collected, scores totted up by ex-Blue Peter presenter/babe Zöe Salmon (who's her agent?), and the lowest-scoring team duly eliminated. Rather confusingly, this meant the shopgirls were asked to stand in a "Sin Bin" skip and be replaced by three people from the audience (who, in this case, had to be referred to as "The Guv's Girls", despite two of them now being men!)

The format was weak and flawed, as you can tell. Compete For The Meat should have kept things simpler, perhaps cleaving close to what The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year does annually on Channel 4. I'm still perplexed by how this quiz only managed to deliver two quick rounds, before reaching the final--where each team leader just answered general knowledge questions solo. Perhaps Meat's two biggest mistakes was trying to keep things fresh by involving an embarrassingly stupid "pub game" towards the end, where two women had to play a miniature game of curling with food, "greasing" the runway with condiments. It was so unfunny, pointless and protracted that both women looked embarrassed to be taking part, and often didn't want to play the game by its own rules as drizzling gravy had zero effect on any outcome.

And why were there celebrities involved? They weren't necessary. The points the celebs earned during the pub quiz could be distributed to the teams in the final round--so, understandably, in not wanting to pick a favourite and guarantee an easy victory, they spread their points out across every team to instead level the playing field. It was the honourable and sensible thing to do, but it effectively meant success in the previous rounds meant even less.

Overall, Compete For The Meat is a decent idea and a reasonable way to give Al Murray's Pub Landlord a new format to apply his brand of jingoistic idiocy (following stand-up, a Sky1 sitcom and ITV chat-show), but the mechanics of the format need serious attention and 20-minutes of fat carved away. The decision to have a frozen chicken mascot called "Mr Giblets" silently hovering in the aisles was notably stupid, and why not make the whole set resemble an actual pub?

This was mild enjoyment when Murray was chatting with real people, in what amounted to a "warm up" before the first advert break, but Compete For The Meat ironically fell apart when the meat of the quiz arrived on the plate.

Dave, Thursdays, 9PM.