If you’ve never caught Argumental on Dave, then you’ve genuinely been missing out. It’s an original commission for the channel, that you need to wade through the avalanche of Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week repeats to find, but over the course of its first series, it became clear that it was one of the more intriguing panel games on telly.
The idea is basically an extension of the school debating society. Two teams of two – led by captains Marcus Brigstocke and Rufus Hound – debate a series of topics, and the audience decides at the end who wins each debate. John Sergeant is in charge of reading gags off the autocue, and the show flows really very well.
The new series gets off to a good start, too, once more attracting guests who really help lift the show. In this episode, the panellists are Dara Ó Briain and Chris Addison, and the debates over the course of the half hour show range from the serious (will Britain bounce back?), the trivial (is Will Smith better than Brad Pitt?) through to the bizarre (is the male genetalia just a cruel joke?).
The highlight of this opener though is the debate over whether bodybuilders look fabulous or not. This, at first, allows Ó Briain to take centre stage, and he’s quite brilliant, turning the debate into a homoerotic discussion, that Rufus Hound then has to counter. He rises to the occasion too, and the end result is really very funny indeed.
There are ups and downs to the show. John Sargeant is a really good choice for host, but he’s not always at ease with the autocue in this one (although he gets some good laughs, and rightly so), while some of the topics work better than others. The episode sags just a little in the middle, too.
Yet this is still a really good little show, that continually attracts strong talent, is led by two very good team captains, and effortlessly entertains for half an hour. The main debate itself tends to be more fun than the opening statements, as that’s when the gloves really come off, and you sometimes yearn for fewer topics and more discussion. But the concept is wisely kept clean and simple, is bereft of gimmicks, and proves there’s a bit more to Dave than a constant diet of repeats.
The new series of Argumental starts on Dave on Monday 23rd March at 9.40pm