I’ve got a few different ways of wrapping up the ubiquitous Nevermind Watchdown planned for the next few days. I figured since this one only refers to a specific timeline of Buzzcocks history, I’d start with that one. So, we’re gonna count down every single person who’s ever guest-hosted an episode, from the bottom to the top.
Several criteria have been taken into account, including hosting skills, funny material, the overall quality of the episode, and the memorability/repetition. So if you were a host who ran a shipshape panel show, made a ton of great jokes, hosted a fantastic episode and came back for an equally great appearance, you’re probably gonna rank highly. People who’ve hosted multiple songs will be subjected to an average- so if you hosted one fantastic show and one terrible show, the average might drag you down a bit. Or, in the case of a certain Mr. Whitehall, if you hosted two terrible shows and one surprisingly fantastic show, you’re only gonna rise a smidge.
Everyone who hosted from Series 18, as well as from Series’ 23-27, is illegible, save for two names…Simon Amstell and Rhod Gilbert. As they ended up hosting series’ of the show, it’s kind of obvious that their ‘audition shows’ in the Guest Host series were successful. Additionally, one of them may have hosted a show that wasn’t really indicative how how their full-series went. So, for the sake of continuity, they’re not included here.
On with the rankings, from #s 59 to 41:
#59: Tim Westwood (Series 24 Episode 7)
(fixes palm to temple)
Somebody had to come in last, and if it was somebody other than Westwood, I’d have seriously question the quality of guest hosts Buzzcocks had. Westwood, to his credit, was himself, didn’t change for the recording. However, that was also his biggest problem- this childish, unsophisticated, boorish DJ was the absolute wrong fit for the show, constantly referring to Phill Jupitus as ‘Uncle Phill’, and trying to keep the show hip and cool while simultaneously dating it with every colloquialism and slang phrase. The show’s runner, the ‘wheel of JLS’, was even shoddier with Westwood at the helm, and not even Aston Merrygold could escape from the banality. Hell, Noel had to stop the show at one point to correct Westwood’s atrocious delivery on a joke, which resulted in an even more painful, awkward telling of it.
Just…the absolute worst. And probably my least favorite episode of the show.
#58- Mark Ronson (Series 24, Episode 1)
Say what you will about Mark Ronson’s achievements in the world of producing, helping Adele produce ’18’, and currently prepping the latest Queens of the Stone Age album, but when he showed up on the Series 24 premiere, something felt…off. Especially considering his boilerplate-but-harmless appearance guest-captaining the Series 22 premiere. This Mark felt distracted, lost, and…for lack of a better word, high off his tits. I’m not sure what kind of substance Mark was on that night, but his autocue readings were a series low, and his joke-readings were just as appalling as Westwood’s. Plus, his appearance looked straight out of a bad sequel to The Mask.
Despite this, I will say his moment of geeking out to ‘Captain Cabinet’ with Noel was pretty great, but he seemed dead and blurred for the rest of the show.
#57: Kristen Schaal (Series 27 Episode 5)
As much as I love Kristen on Bob’s Burgers, and on 30 Rock, leaving her to her own devices as guest host was a mistake, as she was annoying and yelly for most of the show. Kristen’s known for this childlike, high-pitched, goofy, borderline psychotic demeanor (So Louise Belcher, essentially), and it was off-putting for the panelists, as well as for the audience. The producers’ decision to stock the show with 3 X-Factor personnel who all knew each other…and David O’Doherty, who only knew Kristen, was also a mistake, as the dynamics were mixed and flawed from the start. The boorish show was capped off by a dastardly plot to give the show to Kristen’s pal Noel by swerving next lines in his favor, which pissed off Phill’s team. Just an unfortunately unwatchable show from someone who’s best suited for an ensemble.
#56- Ne-Yo (Series 26 Episode 6)
That picture just about says it all. Ne-Yo just thinking to himself ‘how the fuck did I get here?’
To be fair, Ne-Yo tried, quite hard actually, to make the most of a booking that’d obviously been handed off at random, but his autocue readings, his unexcited demeanor, and his slowly growing confusion as to what the hell was going on around him, led to a less-than-favorable performance, one where it seemed like the well-stocked panel was carrying the show forward despite him. It didn’t help that Noel, David O’Doherty AND Stacey Solomon were there to take his relaxed demeanor and make him regret it. In all fairness, this was a pretty nice show, and the panel was pretty sharp, but Ne-Yo’s performance detracted from what could have been a great one, ironically, by simply not wanting to let himself love us.
#55- Juliette Lewis (Series 24 Episode 10)
Along the same school as Ne-Yo, in that the people who do the bookings for the show probably put up their hands and shrugged, and Juliette Lewis probably wasn’t doing anything that week…and probably agreed thanks to the promise of booze. I mean, on one hand she was happy, and in a great mood, but on the other hand she was so wasted that you really couldn’t have expected a coherent show out of her. She also didn’t really know how to host, as she gave teams points for deliberating between the correct answer, and just sort of kept the game on autopilot, again, leaving the panelists to carry the game by themselves. I mean, with Vic Reeves there you really didn’t need her, but the fact that she was so out of it definitely detracted from the show. That’s the main problem with Juliette- she was a distraction rather than an addition.
#54- Cilla Black (Series 25 Episode 10)
When someone with legitimate old-school mystique around them hosts the show, you kinda want them to pull through and knock it out of the park. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and the people you’ve been building up in your head as these legendary, indestructible figures are a now kinda senile and scattered. This was unfortunately the case for the great Cilla Black, who seemed a bit out of her element hosting Buzzcocks, and aside from a nice little anecdote about the Beatles’ sex habits, never really got the laughs she wanted (that weren’t unintentional). It felt like she was being carried by the mystique of what she used to be, rather than what she was trying to be then. Plus, having Angelos Epithimieou on the panel may not have been the best idea for someone who’s easily confused like Cilla Black. So yeah, the thought was in the right place, but it didn’t work out, and that’s kinda sad for someone who had a career like Cilla’s.
#53- Rizzle Kicks (Series 27 Episode 7)
Ah, yes, the two guys responsible for one of the hardest-to-watch Buzzcocks episodes of all time. It’s not that they weren’t funny- they actually had some nice moments, especially Jordan’s cry of racism when Noel didn’t invite them to watch Grease with him and Paul- but how they handled the Huey Morgan meltdown was pretty mean-spirited. First of all, they kind of goaded him on throughout the show, annoying him to the point that by the time Next Lines came around, he was sick of them, to the point where he, yes, smashed a mug and stormed off. The sadder part is that up until that point, Rizzle Kicks were merely okay at hosting, without any real memorable moments, or anything that lifted them above par. It’s just the Huey incident, and the way they followed it by making fun of them, that damages their case. They tried, but no matter whose side you’re on in the Huey-Rizzle Kicks debate, you have to admit that they could have handled the whole thing MUCH better.
#52- Jack Whitehall (Series 23 Episode 4, Series 26 Episode 3, Series 27 Episode 9)
When I was going through a few message boards for Buzzcocks, I got a lot of people saying that Jack Whitehall’s episode was one of the worst, because he’s not at all funny. And as someone who agrees that Jack Whitehall is not funny, I tried to find a silver lining in his episode in Series 23…and I couldn’t. Not for the life of me.
The biggest problem I have with Jack Whitehall, especially on this show, is that he’s way too cheeky and outwardly mean towards people, especially people on the panel. After a low-energy Series 22, I thought that Buzzcocks was trying to get away from someone like Simon Amstell, someone who was busy making it fun for him rather than making it fun for an audience. And through Jack’s first few gigs, that’s what we got- direct meanness, takeaways from the quiz, unfunny jokes, bad hosting technique, and just some really poor shows.
What keeps him off of the bottom spot is the fact that his Series 27 episode was a ton better, but only because he had the kind of panel to buttress his cheekiness. Kriss Akabusi and Alex Brooker swerved the offensive from Jack onto the panel…to the panel onto Jack, thanks to the running gag about Johnny Worrell’s sister. So they managed to get a good episode out of Jack Whitehall, thanks to someone finally getting the best of Jack Whitehall.
#51 – Dale Winton (Series 18 Episode 7)
Series 18’s guest hosts stand out to me, because it’s clear that the producers tried to farm from a wide range of BBC talent, but mainly stuck to a bunch of presenters (Ross, Laverne, Clarkson, Amstell). Dale Winton was the umpteenth presenter to, well, present Buzzcocks, and definitely brings up the rear as far as Series 18 efforts are concerned.
Dale’s main schtick is being an orange gay guy who occasionally hosts Supermarket Sweep- I’ll argue that he was used a ton better in the Series 21 episode he was a panelist on, rather than this episode, where I can barely remember any of his material, mostly just lines had at his expense. I don’t think I need to tell you that he can read a prompter or be good on camera, but I don’t think he was the greatest fit for the host’s chair. Not really for any appalling things he did, but for what he didn’t do, which was make any real impact.
#50- David Hasselhoff (Series 25 Episode 1)
In 2011, David Hasselhoff was plucked from his steady gig judging for America’s Got Talent to judge…Britain’s Got Talent. It was so close to his old job that the Hoff couldn’t have been able to fuck it up…and yet, he did. Still, while he was farming his comeback in the UK, he stopped by Buzzcocks to host, and it was…memorable. Yeah. Memorable.
Part of Hoff’s appeal is that he’s not exactly what you’d call intentionally funny. The guy’s made a career out of being a joke, whether he’s taking himself too seriously or not seriously enough. He kept the former ideology while hosting Buzzcocks, with some over-the-top autocue reads, bombastic hosting, and general bizarre Hasselhoffishness. Honestly, his biggest problem was his ultimate inability to take the show seriously, taking some time out of autocue jokes to break character and go ‘this is true’ or ‘this is gonna get me fired’. You could see Hoff the character cracking to reveal Hoff the man.
Like Whitehall, Hoff’s finest moments here were when the joke was on him, including a moment where he had to read a nasty joke about Simon Cowell and Sinitta, and you could see the enthusiasm drain from his face with every word, knowing he’d be losing his job soon.
#49- Dizzee Rascal (Series 27 Episode 11)
While Dizzee’s show was a solid middle-of-the-road one, fueled by some insane panel moments, a botched backflip, and Jamie Cullum’s piano playing, Dizzee’s hosting was less middle of the road and more tar off the road. The guy’s idea of hosting was just sitting around and watching the panelists go, instead of realizing that he could occasionally chime in. He kept a very low-key, defensive approach to the game, which ultimately stopped his episode from making a real impact.
His only highlights were his brief abilities to be himself, breaking into an impromptu version of Bonkers, and laughing at an autocue joke about himself. Other than that, not much lifted him off the ground.
#48- Mark Watson (Series 23 Episode 7)
My main gripe with Mark Watson’s show wasn’t his humor, his hosting, or anything. I simply thought he was a much better panelist than he was a host. Mark’s best stuff comes from adding onto material rather than initiating it, and with him as the anchor this show, it wasn’t as successful. The show was fine enough, if kinda low-key, but Mark took a quieter, less animated approach to reading and hosting, and fell victim to a gimmicky bit involving Chico, who, according to Mark, had ‘been down there since 2006′. So yeah, while he’s a funny chap, and had some great Buzzcocks’, his hosting gig was disappointing to me.
#47- Stephen Mangan, (Series 26 Episode 10)
What the producers would do rather often during this era was take a host that didn’t bring too much to the table and assign them a gimmick to weave through, rather than spin them on their own merits. With Stephen Mangan, they made his episode the ‘World Music Special’, which detracted from a quiet enough panel. While the gimmick was initially amusing, there wasn’t a great deal that was fresh after a while, and once you took away the theme, Stephen didn’t have a ton of great material, despite having his usual charisma and quick lines. I mean, Stephen tried, but what can you do when the producers are more focused on what the theme/gimmick can do than what you can do?
#46- Lauren Laverne, (Series 18 Episode 4)
Another presenter-friendly Series 18 booking, and another great personality that failed to break out of a ho-hum show. I’ll give Lauren credit for trying, as she’s one of the better recurring guests of the show’s history, and she used the personality to her advantage with her autocue reads, but I can’t remember much at all about her material, or her dynamic with the panel. If anything, this was more Rhod Gilbert’s show than it was Lauren’s- the fact that you could see that a panelist would be a better pick as host than the person actually hosting wasn’t a great sign. Again, Lauren would have much better luck as a panelist, but her hosting gig, while not particularly bad, couldn’t really make itself memorable.
#45- Claudia Winkleman, Series 23 Episode 6
Even from her opening moments, Claudia Winkleman knew she wasn’t necessarily the producers’ first choice: “I’m Claudia Winkleman, and that can only mean one thing…Biggins is busy.” With Buzzcocks, you can’t really be sure if this is an indirect slam or an allusion to a booking that fell through, but if it’s the latter, that does explain why Claudia didn’t have a ton to do that set her apart from the pack, other than having fun and doing good-enough hosting and reading. Honestly, what brings her down this low is the forgettability of her hosting- I remember more about Harry Shearer and Jamelia than I do about her hosting, which is kinda sad. Yeah, Claudia’s a great addition to the fold, and her stuff as a panelist, and on the Big Fat Quiz, is exemplary, but she didn’t have a ton to do here. Maybe an appearance from Christopher Biggins would have at least been more memorable.
#44- David O’Doherty, Series 24 Episode 5
David O’Doherty HOSTING Buzzcocks. In my head, this was a fantastic idea, and I was kinda looking forward to the show as it got closer, knowing his bizarre humor, especially relating to pandas or megaphones. But when I got there…the producers decided to throw me a curveball, and, like the Mangan show, made it entirely gimmick based, with almost no room for David to be himself and make weird, fun little jokes, because the entire show was beating the one-joke premise that Shakira was supposed to host, and David O’Doherty is absolutely nothing like Shakira. Maddeningly, that’s really the only takeaway from this show that it was the ‘Shakira show’, not the ‘David O’Doherty show’. Again, as funny as he is, especially on shows where he was a panelist, the producers shafted him when it came time for him to host.
#43- Liza Tarbuck, Series 26 Episode 11
We’ve gotten to the part of the countdown where some of these guest-hosts were so middle of the road, so good-but-passable that honestly anybody could have hosted, and the game would have gone on the exact same way. Liza, despite her enthusiasm and the fact that her birthday was the day after the taping, hosted a very middle of the road show. She was good, didn’t make any wrong moves, but didn’t do anything too memorable, either. When it came time to screw with guest Rita Ora for her dog fixation, it was mostly Jason Manford and Noel Fielding who took the offensive. I’d actually compare her material here to anything from an episode of QI with her- amusing, good for a second’s glance, but nothing too extraordinary.
#42- Alex James (Series 23 Episode 3)
I’m not gonna sit here and lie and say that Alex James wasn’t happy to be here- he was thrilled, enthusiastically blasting his band’s ‘Song 2’, and handing out his trademark cheeses throughout the show. What keeps him this low is the fact that he didn’t especially do much else, other than cover those same two bases over the course of the night. It’s obvious he loves the show, and he loves the experience, but his reads were slightly askew, and he let Peter Serafinowicz and Holly Walsh do most of the comedic heavy lifting for the night. That’s not to say that James made no impact on Buzzcocks history- his eventual return as a panelist was pretty cool, and his role as narrator of the eventual retrospective series ‘What A Load of Buzzcocks’ was a charismatic touch on the generally pretty good run. But the hosting gig of his wasn’t as good as could have been because it only scratched the surface.
#41- Will Young (Series 25 Episode 5)
Yeah, you can tell by that first shot that the former Pop Idol winner wasn’t 100% into this hosting gig. Young stuck with a very laid-back approach to hosting, and a general demeanor that said that the producers had waited about 8 years too late to book him. I mean, he was harmless enough, and did well enough keeping the game going, but his autocue reads were less than favorable, and he didn’t seem terribly interested in the proceedings. The one saving grace of his episode was the fact that Phill and the panel were able to rip him a new one over allegedly having sex in a bin, and the fact that Will didn’t really know how to break from his hosting demeanor in order to respond.
That’s all I’ll do for tonight- expect #s 40 to 21 to come very soon. Expect a bit more optimism in those.