When last we met, we counted down the bottom 19 Guest Hosts in Buzzcocks history, ranging from good-intending-but-badly-executed (like Alex James) to absolutely atrocious in every way (like Tim Westwood).
Today, we’ll tackle #s 40-21, the middle of the road section of the countdown. If you’d like guidelines for the ranking, check the previous post. We’re heading right into things here:
#40- Sara Cox (Series 27 Episode 4)
We begin this stretch of the countdown with another radio/tv presenter who, despite some enthusiasm, couldn’t really distinguish herself from the rest of the pack. Sara Cox has always been a charismatic choice for Buzzcocks, giving a really smiley performance in Series 5, and graduating to give intros to Adam Ant in Series 28. So to say that she fit on Buzzcocks was an understatement. Her hosting gig wasn’t all that memorable, though it wasn’t really her fault as much as it fell on the shoulders of guest Iggy Azalea, whose antics and demeanor were the subject of lampoon and jokes from the entire panel. Sara couldn’t really compete with Phill and Noel for the Iggy jokes, so decided to just host a ship-shape show, which, to her credit, she did. Again, great personality, but by default she falls into the ‘anyone could have hosted this show’ category.
#39- Jeremy Clarkson (Series 18 Episode 5)
I tried to keep personal bias out of this one, as I’m not particularly fond of Mr. Clarkson, so I tried to put myself in the eyes of someone who, god forbid, does enjoy his work. Would a Top Gear fan, or Clarkson fan, have enjoyed Clarkson’s NMTB bit? Well…no, not really. While this was a very funny show, and while Clarkson was allowed to be himself and snipe at Antony Costa, you could tell there was a great dissonance between the material prepared for Clarkson and the mood Clarkson showed up in. It’s not always very obvious that Buzzcocks’ jokes are written by other people, but here more than anywhere else they just stood out, perhaps due to Clarkson’s plummy, shit-eating delivery of them.
But that’s honestly not the reason he’s this low. He’s also responsible for some generally murky editing around the last half of the show. To this day, for the life of me, I’m not sure if Phill walked off because of Clarkson, and if he really meant it. All I know is that once intros started, Phill wasn’t his jovial self, and was letting Antony Costa fly through the Intros. Then, mid-round, he got up and left, without any real reason given. He just left. And from the crack Clarkson had about a minute later, saying that Phill was already at a fish-and-chip shop, I’m not being given any reason to believe it WASN’T Clarkson’s doing. So I’m left with a hard-to-watch last half of an episode that was fun for some of the wrong reasons.
#38- Catherine Tate (Series 24 Episode 2)
After putting forth one of the single most baffling appearances on the show from someone not named Bill Oddie, Catherine Tate’s hosting gig was thought as an odd choice from me going into Series 24, but after the Mark Ronson show, I was hoping for anything that was slightly coherent. Surprisingly Catherine was the coherent one, playing off her ‘am I bovvered’ catchphrase, leading a relatively ship-shape show, and having a great deal of fun. But ironically the incoherency came from Noel Fielding’s team, dubbed ‘Team Fuzzy’, featuring a jet-lagged Tulisa from N-Dubz, and a perpetually glazed Howard Marks. So it’s equally ironic to say that I remember more about the antics of Team Fuzzy, especially with Phill screwing with Howard, than I remember about the host, the lady who confused the shit out of Bernard Cribbins the year before. Again, nothing too terrible, but when you’re drowned out by Howard Marks, you’ve got to do something better.
#37- James Corden (Series 23 Episode 1)
I’m gonna start this writeup by saying that I don’t hate James Corden as much as everybody else does. Everybody in the UK’s probably sick of him, because he presented everything over there and wasn’t terribly funny, and Frankie Boyle wants him to kill himself. I…think he’s fine? I like The Late Late Show, I think Carpool Karaoke is a good concept, and I liked when he hosted the Tonys. His mindset is just having fun and making the best out of something dark, and I can totally respect that. Literally in the first seconds of the show, he brought up the elephant in the room, Simon Amstell, and said that this wasn’t gonna be another mean era of the show, which I thought was awfully nice.
The rest of the show Corden hosted…was okay. Not good, not bad. Okay. He didn’t do a great deal of envelope-pushing, but he didn’t need to. Obviously he knew how to read an autocue, and obviously he was good at interacting with the panel, but overall nothing really stood out on his show, save for Corden’s eternally jolly demeanor. It’s hard to believe Corden was the first guest host after the Amstell era, and while he didn’t start things with a bang, he at least gave an inoffensive, harmless entry into the canon.
Ironically, we move from the first ever guest host of the ‘era’ to the LAST ever guest host of the era, and someone who’s the exact opposite of safe and inoffensive.
#36- JOHNNY VEEEEGAS, (SEEERIES TWENT-EH SEVUNN, EPISOOODE THIIIIHTEEN!)
Well. Somebody gave Johnny some booze, didn’t they.
I’ve always been on the fence about Johnny Vegas’ character, because on one hand, he’s this loud, boorish, obnoxious character, but on the other hand, there’s something very childlike and innocent about him, and the latter bit has been winning out a lot on QI. I never particularly enjoyed him on Buzzcocks, though, as he’d always be rather loud, esoteric, and take away from the quiz too much.
The Christmas show he hosted was, uh…wild. Absolutely wild. Johnny was visibly drunk, he would go into digressions that I’m still unsure of whether or not they were intentional, and he was kind of compromised as a host, giving semi-intentionally bad prompter readings, and nearly screwing up the hole show by handing Phill’s team the entire envelope of Next Lines…and then taking another 5 minutes to sulk about it.
The reason why he’s not so much lower is that while he was disastrous on the show, there was still something truly entertaining about it that kept the whole thing from being a ‘Johnny’s drunk, this is really unwatchable’ kind of thing, like the Amy Winehouse show or the Bonnie Tyler show. He was having a great time, and he’d go on emotional tangents for the camera which I think were intentional, and made the whole thing entertaining, in addition to bizarre. So obviously his episode was flawed, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.
#35- Tinie Tempah (Series 25 Episode 9)
In terms of rappers hosting the show, I think of someone who did pretty well, like Example, and someone who couldn’t break out of his funk, like Dizzee Rascal. I put Scunthorpe-obsessed Tinie Tempah somewhere in the middle. On one hand, you could see his personality there, and you could see he was trying to have fun, especially playing the Scunthorpe card, and plopping a giant bag of placenta on the desk, to the horror of the panelists. But on the other, some of his reads weren’t great, he took a passive approach to hosting, and didn’t have many cards to rely on in terms of material (hence the overreliance on Scunthorpe.) So while he was definitely enthusiastic, he fell short of lapping Example (who was on the panel that night), but the show could still be carried by the panel (and oh, what a weird show it was…)
#34- David Walliams (Series 23 Episode 9)
With the amount of prestige and acclaim David Walliams has gotten, and the fact that he’s generally well-liked by the public, I was kinda surprised how much of a let-down his show was. The main joke running through the show was how gay David was (even though we know now that he’s bisexual), and he was sort of playing this up throughout the show, even using world-renowned motion capture actor Andy Serkis for a cheap anal-sex joke. He also just essentially flirted with Gareth Malone and Basshunter the whole show. I mean, there was a lot of good energy stuff here, and I definitely think David’s a nice rudimental host, but a lot of his material hit the same notes for me, and couldn’t really be elevated above ‘okay.’
#33- Elvis Presley (or Eamonn Holmes) (Series 27 Episode 6)
I’ve been going over in my head whether or not the Elvis thing was a show-long gimmick. I mean, I honestly think Eamonn just wanted to dress up like Elvis, didn’t have a ton of Elvis-shoehorning into the rest of the show, and this doesn’t really feel like the ‘Elvis’ show, to me. So it’s not a gimmick. Eamonn just wanted to dress up like Elvis, which he’s more than capable of doing.
Other than some rudimentary stuff, Eamonn didn’t really interact with too many of the panelists, and mostly stuck to his guns, which is why he’s down here, but I’d like to point out that his hosting skills were excellent (obviously, as all those years on GMTV trained him correctly). Additionally…the prompter jokes they gave Eamonn were some of the most savage, hysterical jokes in a while. Unlike the Clarkson show, it felt like Eamonn was perfectly game with the material, even if it included a fat joke at his expense, and a LETHAL Anthea Turner slam. He was insanely game with the script for the night, almost as if he helped write it. So while he wasn’t the perfect host, his skills in front of the prompter were top notch, and that’s what puts him above Walliams for me.
#32- Alex Horne (and his Horne Section) (Series 26 Episode 9)
This booking I will give the producers some credit for. On one of the foremost music institutions in the UK, having Alex Horne and his entire jazz ensemble host the show was a fantastic choice. The Intros round playbacks had band renditions instead of play-ins, and the Next Lines round had the band do the prompt, and required the panelists to sing back the Next Lines, leading to an adorable, impressive moment from Paloma Faith.
The interludes didn’t always work- in the middle of a conversation about olympic gymnast Louis Smith, the band improvised a song about Louis in action, which, while a great idea in question, took away some much-needed quiz time. These digressions weren’t always great, but the band was a great innovation for the show.
Again, like the Catherine Tate show, I don’t remember a ton about Alex’s hosting, charismatic as it was, because the show was taken over by Team Abstract, featuring Paloma Faith and Tony Law, two of the most bonkers panelists the show’s ever had. Most of their antics made up the show, instead of Alex Horne’s hosting. So while Horne and his section made for a great show, his hosting skills took a backseat to some panel action, which, while not a bad thing, takes away from what could have been a higher ranking.
#31- Michael Bolton (Series 27 Episode 8)
Sometimes an episode-long theme actually fits a host’s strengths, and this is no more evident than getting Michael Bolton, post-Lonely-Island-aided Boltonaissiance, to host the ‘Sexy Special’, complete with over-the-top mountain for Bolton to stand on, and Shane Filan to teach everybody how to stand sexily.
Look, Bolton’s strengths were obviously not in reading from a prompter, as some of his reads were kind of wooden and unnatural. Additionally, he’d get something wrong, like assigning a song to the ‘Kaiser Chefs’ (cue Seann Walsh going ‘WHAT’S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL, IT IS A BLENDER!’). So while he wasn’t the most mentally prepared for the show (maybe attributed to slight jet-lag), he still worked his charm when he could, and was still fully aware of his status as not only a sex symbol but a pop culture punchline. And yeah, he was capable of singing sexily anytime he wanted, leading to a great moment of, on Seann and Phill’s request, singing ‘IT’S NOOOOOT ANAL DAAAANGERR…”
So he was game, he was himself, but as a host he was lacking a bit. Still made for a great show, though.
#30- Example (Series 26 Episode 2)
Directly in the middle of the countdown is an appearance from E.G., a guy who was a panelist a bunch of times, and always seemed to have a really good time. As host…yeah, he was pretty good. I don’t have a ton to say about him, as he kept the game going well, interacted with the panel well, and came off like he was happy to be there. Granted, he was tied to a ‘And the Love Kick Starts Again’ runner, between Gareth Malone and Wretch 32, which, by the umpteenth rendition, had Gareth literally banging his head on the desk in frustration.
Still, Example kept the main bulk of the humor to the panelists, and thank god- Rufus Hound, Wretch and Gareth made this one of the filthiest shows on record, thanks to a ton of jokes involving soldiers’ wives and pantomime horses. Example, to his credit, joined in on the fun in addition to keeping the game going.
So yeah: Example is pretty much the standard for guest hosting. A perfect example, if you will.
#29: Huey Morgan (Series 18 Episode 6)
Before the mug-smashing incident, and after the show where he came to set high off a number of narcotics, Huey, the smooth MC, hosted a show in Series 18, as a friend of Mark’s. Was he a good host? No. His reads weren’t great, he screwed up a bunch of his lines, and wasn’t THE greatest at keeping the game going. BUT…off the cuff, Huey was absolutely hysterical. In messing up a line, he kept giving uncensored takes of a joke about Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, because he was really passionate on the subject. He also had a ton of jokes about himself being secretly gay, and even more about a New Jersey weatherman taking on England. The stuff he improvised, and the amount of fun he was HAVING as well as IMPARTING onto the panelists (especially Phill) more than made up for his lack of mechanics as a host.
#28- Tim Minchin (Series 24 Episode 6)
Slightly disappointing seeing as Tim’s one of the more fun panelists and personalities of this middle-era of the show, but ultimately worth it being that it’s Tim bluddy Minchin hosting Buzzcocks. I like the fact that he was able to work off of pretty much everyone on the panel- fellow aussie Jason Donovan on his right, and fellow weird musician, and fellow weird comedian, Paloma Faith and Tim Key on his left. He had plenty of material on them all, even a little screwing with Tim in Intros.
Even better, Tim donated his piano talents to the Intros round, as he gave both teams a ‘Tim’ card, saying he’d help them out with a piano rendition of the intro in question, which was a great touch. His jokes, and autocue reading, take him down a few pegs, as well as the quality of the ongoing ‘bow and arrow’ joke directed at DJ Target. He could have done better, but I’m still quite happy this show happened.
#27- Alice Cooper (Series 25 Episode 7)
Alice Cooper is probably the NMTB producers’ greatest triumph- not only getting him to come on back in Series 14 and joke around with Mark Lamar, but getting the so-called Prince of Darkness back to host in Series 25. Ohhh, let me tell you, the opening moments of the show were followed by a great deal of geeking out on my end. Then, I saw Alice Cooper the man, rather than Alice Cooper the performer, do his greatest strength- amidst the black smoke and lightning, he grew a goofy smile, and, like the uncle who’d just made a toast at a wedding, semi-pathetically asked everyone to ‘siddown’.
Alice Cooper’s strength is his ability to be, you know, ALICE COOPER, while at the same time, still be able to come off as a normal dude from the midwest. In hosting the show, this really came off well- he wielded his rock cred with a smile and grin, and quizzed the panel on the name of his new album as a twist. But still, he came off as one of the nicest guys in rock’n’roll, and even managed to throw in his Elvis story, which I’d heard before, but was even funnier when surrounded by Noel and Phill.
Still, some of the prompter reads needed some work, and Alice wasn’t a terribly active administrator, but I didn’t care. He was ALICE COOPER- he could be as good as he wanted to be.
#26- Jack Dee (Series 24 Episode 3 & Series 25 Episode 2)
The trouble you can get with bringing someone back a second time is that they can back away from what made them great the first time and instead stick to what’s easy, and hand in a less-than-favorable result. And that, sadly, applies to the eternally-dour Jack Dee.
Jack’s first go-around was fantastic, thanks to the influence of a certain pair of Irish chipmunks to send Jack into a near-tailspin for most of the show, and give him enough comedic fodder to remain grumpy for the entire show. Jack can read off the prompter well, and like we saw in his Guest Panelist show, he’s very savvy and inclusive when he needs to be, sort of behind the guise of this character. He didn’t reinvent the wheel, but his hosting skills were outshone by his ability to work off the cuff and keep screwing with Jedward and the rest of the panelists.
The problem he had in the 2nd show was that he didn’t really have a natural source of grumpiness, and the show had to center the show around Jack being grumpy, complete with digressions and prop-related asides that fell flat. It felt manufactured, rushed, and fake, and while Jack did the best he could to still give funny moments, he was dwarfed by the production team’s intervention…when they clearly didn’t need to intervene.
Jack’s a great talent, and had a great first show, but the weak quality of his first show pulled him down a tad farther than I would have liked.
#25- Adam Buxton (Series 25 Episode 4)
Adam Buxton’s hosting tenure was responsible for one bit I really, really hated…and another bit that makes me laugh to this date. The fact that he’s #25 on the countdown means that the second one won out a little bit.
Adam was another victim of the show tailoring the specific episode to the host in Series 25. Between every round, Adam sang a self-written jingle, describing the next round, done in a specific style. I…did not like this. Not one bit. I do love the fact that they were all written by Buxton, and the fact that he was really into it, but I felt like it took too much away from the quiz, and since Adam hadn’t really made a big deal about being a radio personality on his prior 2 shows, it was sort of an odd angle to go about. So, love the ambition, hate the execution.
His other innovation was the final round, where, instead of Next Lines, he’d read Youtube comments left on videos featuring the panel (and other vids), and asked them to fill in the blank. In concept, I wasn’t too pleased, but once this round got going…oh dear lord, I was in tears. The second he started imitating the voice of commenter ‘GerryBaboona’, who said, on the subject of magician Dynamo, ‘DIS GUY MUST BE AN ALIEN OR SUTIN’, and going off on a bit there, I was gone. And the round just got funnier and funnier from there.
Adam’s hosting abilities were great, and he, for the most part, knew how to keep people engaged. I took away some points for the jingles, but I think he was a terrific host.
#24- Nick Grimshaw (Series 26 Episode 4)
Nick Grimshaw had a pretty difficult task lined up for him- not only did he have to host Buzzcocks, but he had to host one of the most ambitious themed-Buzzcocks shows in years. The ‘Hey Mr. DJ’ show, which features ample screen-time for guests Pat Sharp, Tony Blackburn and Mike Read (all three Buzzcocks royalty, by the way), was engineered to have a new element to the game, and be even more live and innovative than the rest of the show. So while Grimshaw didn’t exactly succeed with flying colors, he did a pretty nice job of keeping the ship tight.
He was great at engineering the soundboard of DJ sounds, and knowing when to hand it off to the three guests, as well as keeping the DJ element present and including them when necessary. He was also great at reading the prompter and keeping some guests into the mix. The one flaw of his is that he wasn’t always there to bring humor right off the bat, as he was a bit preoccupied with things, but luckily Nancy Dell’Olio was on hand to provide several cc’s of unintentional humor, and Fred Macpherson and Joe Lycett were there to spin the humor back onto her. So, honestly, having Nick not really be the funniest guest host wasn’t really a problem, as the show was insanely funny anyway.
A solid start from the so-called ‘Savior of Buzzcocks’, especially considering the workload he was given.
#23- John Hannah (Series 27 Episode 1)
Admittedly, John Hannah was a very odd choice to host the series premiere of Buzzcocks. He’d been a character actor for years, most famously appearing as the gay widower in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but he’d never really been a spotlight type, so even he admitted he was an odd choice. However, the first second of Hannah’s energy, charisma, and exuberance, I kinda knew we were gonna be alright.
Hannah’s show was essentially Tennant lite. He had a good show, was great at interacting with the panel and reading from the prompter. Plus, his actor cred shone through a few times, during a bit where, as a Kiss song played, he mimed passing a blunt to Phill’s panel. The whole time he just seemed really happy to be there, which I love.
The big moment that vexes me happened in Next Lines, where John recited lines from his speech at the end of Four Weddings, next to a picture of the deceased professor. It vexes me because I’m not sure whether or not the producers booked him JUST BECAUSE of Four Weddings, and just because that moment was gonna happen. Either way, the panelists’ way of reacting was friggin’ hysterical, especially Noel’s addition of ‘My Sharona’.
So John Hannah, despite not being anyone’s first choice to host a great show, hosted a great show. Just not quite memorable enough to top this piece of Buzzcocks royalty at #22…
#22- Jonathan Ross (Series 18, Episode 1)
Wossy was, in fact, the very first guest host that Buzzcocks ever had, and he was vocal about the fact that he did the show as a favor to Mark Lamarr, who, at that point, was only taking a break due to mental exhaustion (or Toyah exhaustion). To say that Ross was a natural for the job was an understatement- he’d been appearing on the show since the beginning, and knew the exact beats Mark hit as host. He spent some time screwing with Tom from McFly, rolled his eyes at the antics of Bill Bailey and Teddy Mitchell (or Bill and Ted), and kept the game rolling, though stopping to make his usual amount of fun, quick-paced digressions. Said digressions aren’t really for me, and made the show kind of hard to edit, as the first round squeezed Intros-to-Next Lines into the 2nd half of the broadcast. So in terms of hosting and keeping the emphasis on the quiz, he wasn’t great…but in terms of everything else, he was Jonathan Ross hosting Buzzcocks, and it went exactly was well as you would have thought.
#21- Frank Skinner (Series 23 Episode 5)
Frank Skinner was responsible for guesting on a supremely good Series 5 episode…another really nice Series 6 episode, and being the best Guest Captain of Series 22. So I had no doubt in my mind that he’d be a fantastic host, and while he didn’t completely outdo my expectations, not well enough to land in the Top 20, he still managed to host a bang-up show, and was able to be himself.
Frank’s best stuff came from screwing with panelist Tinchy Stryder over his height, his fame, and ‘de knickaz’. He was very fun off-the-cuff, reacting to the panel like Mark would, and keeping the show going like Mark would. He’s also responsible for one of my favorite callbacks in the show’s history. Jon Richardson’s constant guess for Intros was ‘Winds of Change’, by the Scorpions, so Frank was able to get lyrics from that song into Next Lines…and Jon couldn’t get it!
Honestly, what keeps Frank out of the top 20 was the fact that, with the exception of the things i mentioned, I can’t remember a ton about his episode. He was obviously a fantastic host, with some funny material, but the folks in the Top 20 gave me a little more to take away than Frank did, not to disparage him whatsoever.
So, those are the Middle 20. Expect the Top 20 very soon, and expect the #1 spot to be fairly obvious if you’ve been reading the blog.