The names Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are rightfully legendary in British comedy. Their skewed take on the light entertainment and escapism that dominated their upbringings has delighted and inspired for over 20 years.
Vic & Bob launched their careers when Vic Reeves Big Night Out was broadcast in 1990. Transferring their ramshackle live shows to TV instantly netted them a whole generation of fans before heading over to the BBC in 1993. Almost 20 years later they’re back on Channel 4 with a new panel show pilot as part of their Funny Fortnight, celebrating 30 years of comedy.
Lucky Sexy Winners is very much in the Vic and Bob tradition. There’s the same skewed view of light entertainment blended with flights of fancy and plain old mucking about as you’ve come to expect from the late and lamented Shooting Stars. And as ever, it’s wonderful!
The format has changed from having two teams to 3 celebrities competing against each other and that’s more or less the only difference. There’s the same low rent glitz. The same non-sequitur questions. And the same surreal sketches punctuating the proceedings.
For this edition the guests are Waterloo Road‘s Chelsee Healey, This is England‘s Thomas Turgoose and surreal stand-up legend Eddie Izzard. All of who seem game for a laugh here, though Izzard plays along a little too well at times deflating the juxtaposition that the show demands. Dan Skinner returns as the score master but in the guise of epically bearded warrior Johnny Meringue. And Vic & Bob effortlessly carry the show with charm and cheek in equal measure. They’ve been doing this for so long, it’s business as usual for them. And that’s the problem here.
Also shown on Funny Fortnight were two pilots produced before they defected over to the BBC. The Weekenders was a wonderful one-off show that was the first attempt at attaching a narrative to their unique world view, detailing their visit to a meat festival and encountering The Human League’s Phil Oakey and aliens in the process. And broadcast for the first time ever, Poppadoodledandy. A magazine show on the pop scene of the time which has Vic & Bob asking bands what National Insurance contributions they pay. These pilots were attempts at breaking out of the Big Night Out format but Channel 4 wasn’t interested in anything else. After defecting to the BBC, their biggest success came with Shooting Stars which now hangs over their career.
It’s not that Lucky Sexy Winners is a bad show. Far from it. It’s just that TV is swamped with a dozen indentikit comedy panel shows currently. Though it was a genuine loss when the axe fell on Shooting Stars, hopes were raised that they would get a new sketch show or sitcom. Their free flowing, eclectic and genuinely surprising style of humour deserves a bigger space to explore. Giving them another panel show just seems like a lazy choice. There are still some inspired moments here, but they’re just glimpses of what could and should be.
Channel 4 broadcasting The Weekenders and Popadoodledandy as part of the same package as Lucky Sexy Winners is a cruel reminder of how diverse TV’s comedy landscape used to be. It’s always a joy to see Vic & Bob on our screens but I’d love to see them come out from behind their desks. Do yourself a favour and seek out both of those shows to see the heights of glee they can reach! There really doesn’t need to be another TV panel show, give them their own series where they can be unrestrained! Let Vic & Bob run free!
The Weekenders is available to see on 4OD and the UK version of itunes.
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