Bill Bailey’s Bird Watching Bonanza episode 1 review

We love Bill Bailey. We're not so keen on bird watching. How do the two fare when brought together on screen?

I couldn’t help it. As soon as I found out that I was reviewing this, I turned to the nearest available colleague and made a joke about tits. And then he made a joke abut tits, and then somebody else jumped in with a double entendre from a Carry On film, and that was that.

But, to be honest, the quality of the jokes which were bandied about for the rest of the afternoon weren’t dissimilar to the program I settled down to that evening: nearly there, making the effort, not offensive, but ultimately not quite worth it.

I love Bill Bailey, and the ‘Scale of Evil’ in Part Troll made me laugh so much I nearly choked. I watched his documentary about having to move bats away from a bypass and was pleasantly surprised to see him doing something other than stand-up comedy or sit-down panel games. I knew nothing about Bird Watching Bonanza before tuning in, but felt that I had some kind of idea of what it might be – footage of birds accompanied by an amusing but educational commentary, perhaps a song or two, the odd wry interview with a self-deprecating nature lover.

This is not what I got. Instead, we were put through what I can only describe as a kind of mutant hybrid of Springwatch, Survivor and The Krypton Factor, with teams of nonebrities competing against each other for…well, for some reason. Not so much Z-list as row-FF-list, Bill was joined by Alex Zane, Jeff Green, Kara Tointon and Joe Swash. To be put this into some kind of perspective, I only recognised Joe Swash, and that was because I’d seen him over Christmas in some other programme involving allegedly famous people nobody knows. I can’t even remember what the show was, and can only recall wondering who he was on that. They’d have been better getting people off the street for all they brought to the party.

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The content itself was baffling, involving ‘rounds’ in which the contestants had to count birds, take photographs of birds, build something to watch birds from, and answer questions about birds. If this doesn’t sound that exciting, it’s because it wasn’t.

By the first advert break I was losing interest. By the halfway mark, I wasn’t bothered. And not long after this I started to do other things and nearly forgot I was supposed to be reviewing it.

Hauling myself back I realised that I was experiencing something rarely, if ever, associated with a Bill Bailey product: disappointment. And possibly boredom. And maybe, just maybe, resentment, because this promised much and delivered pretty much nothing (unless you are an avid fan of ITV’s current output, in which case it was comparatively brilliant).

Has nobody got utterly, teeth-achingly sick of seeing people who are not remotely celebrated taking part in dubiously weak ‘conflict’ situations marketed as mind-blowing entertainment? Or is it just me? Because if we have to cross the line somewhere, I think that reducing one of Britain’s funniest comedians into producing something this dull should be that moment.

I would happily go birdwatching with Bill Bailey any day of the week, but not on Sky One. Please, Mr “Disenfranchised Owl”, disenfranchise yourself from this kind of ‘popular’ tripe and get back to what you’re good at.

Bill Bailey’s Bird Watching Bonanza airs Thursdays on Sky One at 9pm.