Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Johnny Vegas Is Actually From Woking

Some People Are On The Telly watched Argumental on Dave last night. This is what it thought.

At a time where commercial television is getting crunched by Colonel Credit's mighty jack-boot its encouraging to see UKTV commissioning their own programmes. The network which has made a business out of repeating other channels TV shows is now making its way into the murky and treacherous waters of original TV.

The network's recent rebrand begun with Dave. The cross-channel makeover is nearly finished with only the factual and documentary stations awaiting the inevitable name change to or Plants or Trainspotting or something equally cerebral.

Dave was originally UKTV G2, a comedy repeat channel. Since adopting a blokes name it has continued to moved more into lifestyle and panel game-shows plus sport. Latterly its has become bolder with its commissioning. The channels' relaunch has been a success and has seen its audience share increase while some of their rival's is shrinking. Furthermore, as a Freeview channel its profile will grow as Digital Switchover continues. Consequently, Dave is UKTV's flagship free to air channel and it appears, has been given the programming budget to match.

The World Rally Championship's home in the UK is now on Dave with an hour long highlights programme (they even have their own mics with Dave written on them and everything). Other commissions include Batteries Not Included, a gadget programme hosted by John Cleese (apparently). Most interestingly (for us at least) however has been the launched of the comedy panel game show Argumental.

The programme essentially mixes stand-up, with game show with topical debate. Its a kind of Live at The Apollo marries Mock The Week with Have I Got News For You as its bit on the side. Its very Dave.

Former political correspondent and dancing judge botherer John Sergeant is your host. The two team captains stand up comics, Rufus Hound and Marcus Brigstocke, are joined by esteemed contemporaries as guests. Sergeant sets the debate going with a topical statement and the comics take turn in amusing the studio audience by arguing for or against the position. At the end of each round, the audience decide which team was the funnier and vote accordingly. The winner at the end of the show is... well you get the idea.

The result is funny. This Monday, the guests were Johnny Vegas and Robin Ince. The audience were treated to improvised routines from experienced comics based on such topics as Binge Drinking Is Not A Bad Thing, You Can't Beat A British Beach Holiday and Boris Johnson Is As Daft As He Looks. The comics got into the spirit of things, worked well off of each other and the little side argumants while, at times, a bit laboured yielded some decent gags. You even got to learn what the expression Daft As A Brush meant.

On the downside Argumental is not at all groundbreaking. Its produced by Tiger Aspect who are old hands at this sort of thing. The format looks more like a single round of Mock The Week stretched out to a twenty minute show and Sergeant's links are a bit ho-hum (although there is nothing wrong with the delivery). Basically its nothing new but then again, its on Dave and lets face it, there is not supposed to be anything new on Dave. Thats the point of the channel.

Argumental's strength is its familiarity, both to the audience and the participants. Everyone seems comfortable with the format and knows what they are doing. Consequently, its hit the ground running and will not need a whole series to find its feet. This is just as well since it will be expected to deliver a high audience share right from the off. Multichannel commissions are rare enough in today's climate and its doubtful that the show won't be given a second chance. Fingers crossed it won't need one.

Argumental is on Dave every Monday. More details are available the official website.


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