Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive
As anyone who‘s seen ’A Cock And Bull Story‘ will know, comedian Rob Brydon‘s no stranger to self-parody. The film-about-making-a film saw him starring as an exaggerated version of himself: not unlike the version we see in his equally post-modern new series, ’Annually Retentive‘.
A bit like ‘The Larry Sanders Show’, it’s a panel show hosted by Brydon, intercut at a dizzying speed with footage of him planning the show behind the scenes. As producers run through lists of potential guests, his comments are acerbic, insulting and nearly always funny. ‘The truth is, I think she offers a light at the end of the tunnel for Britain’s fat population,’ he says of Fern Britton.
So is this cynical dismissiveness a fair reflection of the workings of a panel show? ‘The content is as realistic as you can get without being a fly-on-the-wall doc,’ claims director-producer and co-writer Paul Duddridge, who worked with Brydon on ‘The Keith Barret Show’ and ‘Director’s Commentary’. ‘A lot of back-stabbing goes on.’ The choice of panellists – who were briefed on the concept before filming – is also designed to reflect the trends in ‘real’ panel shows. ‘My watchword was “plausible”,’ says Duddridge. ‘[Panel shows] are meeting places of different levels of celebrity. So we have Trisha and David Walliams – that happens every week on some show.
Tuesday’s first episode sees team captains Dave Gorman and Jane Moore (‘the tabloid hack?’ asks Brydon, incredulously) joined by Gail Porter, David Mitchell (who Brydon mimics hilariously), Richard Bacon and comedian Lucy Porter (‘Who? Who?’). Each show is filmed in full in front of a studio audience, then intercut with the ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage. The theme of the panel show is the events of a particular year – the first is 1997 – but that’s not really the point. As Duddridge says, most panel shows aren’t so much about the questions, but the chat – and much of that chat, ‘Annually Retentive’ implies, is fed to the panellists before the show. ‘My simple premise was: show stuff is not as spontaneous as it purports to be,’ says Duddridge. ‘It’s irreverence by numbers.’ A running joke is that Brydon’s team are constantly ripping off ‘Have I Got News For You’, but Dudderidge says that’s not his main target. ‘It’s the pale imitators I rail against, the shows that nick from them. There’s a ton of them out there. We had a look at the TV listings and 60 per cent of comedy output is panel shows.’
While the format of the first ‘Annually Retentive’ suggests its comic possibilities are limited (Brydon’s snide remarks are funny, but can they sustain a series?), Duddridge promises that further episodes will build on his character. ‘He’s going for auditions, falls in love with a guest booker…’ Future panellists sound promising, too. ‘We’ve got Alistair [McGowan] and Ronni [Ancona], Alexei Sayle, Elton John…’ says Duddridge, adding, ‘we got Russell Brand just before he became the nation’s favourite everything – before he started healing people.’ A comment worthy of Brydon himself.
Tuesday, 10.30pm, BBC3
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