Friday, 9 March 2012


Friday, 9 March 2012

The most overexposed comedian around now has her own BBC show. Sarah Millican's a very likable person (mainly because she exudes adorable auntie vibes), but she's become such a TV fixture these past few years that her presence has become quite irritating. And it doesn't help that her material often circles the same hackneyed female-skewing concerns of health, beauty, weight and dieting. Millican's early career, forged with a success Edinburgh Festival show, was marked by jokes concerning her then-recent divorce, which was fertile and interesting ground to cover from a woman's perspective. It would be nice if she used equally personal material in future, rather than reheat quips about exercise and eating.

But the biggest concern is Millican's aforementioned overexposure on our screens, because she pops up as a panelist, stand-up, chat show guest, and radio interviewee with alarming regularity. (It doesn't help that UK TV is overrun with shows that require fast and frequent turnaround of funny guests.) Regardless, it's no exaggeration to say there was a time, just before Christmas, when Millican appeared on my television screen no less than six times in a week—and that's surely overkill in anyone's book, except her agent's. Maybe she'll ease off now she's been rewarded for all her hard work with a chat show with her name in the title.

The Sarah Millican Television Programme recycles a fairly common format, with a mix of stand-up comedy and lighthearted chat. The guests this week were wildlife expert Chris Packham and best-selling "sexpert" author Tracey Cox, which thus enabled Millican to perform stand-up based on nature and sex. There were a few nice touches to the show's setup, too; like how Packham was seated almost as if he was the host, with Millican perched on a subservient sofa in front of him, and an amusingly-staged sequence with Cox mentoring Millican through a speed dating scenario in the show's finale. I was less keen on the overall conceit that this show is fundamentally about television, with Millican occasionally breaking off to joke about various TV shows, and show clips from other programmes on a big screen. A sequence with her receiving live advice from her real-life father, via live satellite link-up, also felt largely pointless. And why was Millican told to wear a head-mounted webcam when chatting to her dad?

Two things will decide if this show becomes a hit for BBC2. Are there enough people who find Sarah Millican pleasant company on a Thursday evening, as well as a funny comedian it's worth watching? And will the quality of the weekly guests (and thus associated topics for Millican's stand-up) be interesting? Packham and Cox weren't exactly big names, but neither were they faces we're seeing constantly on other chat shows. It would probably help if Millican's chats felt less rehearsed, as it was obvious she was steering the conversation around to pre-written gags, but otherwise this first episode didn't go so badly.

It's already a good deal more successful and affable than Ruth Jones' awful attempts in those occasional "specials" you rather suspect are "trials"—as the BBC seem keen to get a female face headlining a lighthearted comedy/chat show of this type. Maybe they've found the right person in Sarah Millican, who carries a certain appeal to both sexes. I'm just not sure the strength of her material's consistent enough, as there were some rather poor jokes in the mix here, or that she's necessarily right for BBC2—which is supposed to be the more experimental terrestrial arm of the BBC.

BBC Two, Thursdays @10PM.