For once this series, we have 3 established regulars, now that Jim Sweeney has appeared once- Mike McShane, Sandi Toksvig and Paul Merton are also here, the latter two giving their first appearances of the season. Paul, sadly, was beginning the downslope of his Whose Line career, as he’d appear less and less as he made more and more commitments to Have I Got News For You.
Film and Theatre Styles: Mike and Sandi (two strangers with adjoining hotel rooms)
Interesting note- this is the first time that WL gets away with one playing of F&TS. Usually Jim and Paul would have to do one, but perhaps theirs didn’t make it in.
Sandi: “Uhhh…HELLO…Are you the waiter, and if so, why have you got nothing on?”
Mike, awkwardly, tries hiding his privates
Sandi: “No, please don’t cover it up in any sort of way, your hand doesn’t seem to do it…”
Sandi: “What an interesting medical phenomena this is…a man who’s as big as he says he is, NOW…”
Oooooh, satirical AND funny. Way to go.
This scene actually, unlike most other F&TS scenes, has a nice, well-formed ending, that feels less like Clive saving time and more like a logical end to the scene.
Alphabet: Jim is rescuing Paul from quicksand, starting with P.
They must have learned from last playing, as they’re giving a starting letter instead of just going from A.
This is a slightly-clumsy one, because it’s tough for Paul to keep it going towards the trickier letters, but it does get a TON better once they’re into easier ones.
Jim: “Goodbye to the quicksand, then.”
Paul: “Hello to a new life.”
Jim: “…..I love you.”
Paul: “…just saying that.”
Jim: “kinky little devil…”
You can definitely tell that Jim’s way better at this game than Paul, and Paul stumbles, but it’s still a nice enough round, and ends well.
Song Styles: Mike sings a Calypso song about a Moldy Tomato.
There’s a nice amount of banter towards the beginning, as Clive can barely say the style, and then mistakes the tomato for a potato. Mike at least grins and bears it, unlike his fellow west-coast counterpart.
Mike gives a high-energy, high finesse song here, and he does it in only 12 or so bars. Clive and the audience are going wild when he finishes.
Expert Translation: Paul translates Sandi, from Outer Mongolia, speaking of how yaks go to the toilet
So…real talk. This is my favorite playing of this game. I feel like it came together like no other playing of this game has, and made me laugh harder than any other has (even the Volvo one). So…let’s examine this.
Sandi: [Ecstatic and loud, long enthusiastic intro line]
[Audience, and me, laugh like hell]
Sandi: [smaller line]
Paul: “Now calm down.”
I’m just gonna transcribe most of Paul’s stuff here: “Imagine you are in Outer Mongolia and you see before you, walking, the most beautiful specimen of yak you’ve ever laid your eyes on.
[Sandi gives an impassioned, heart-felt plea]
Paul: “You think, how on earth is it gonna go to the toilet?”
The best part of this is that Sandi keeps trying to actually explain, in motion, how this process works, but Paul keeps negating her: “You can try leading them into your house, you can show them how the flush works, but most yaks don’t care for that sort of thing.”
Sandi: [gives a more detailed flushing motion]
Paul: “Most of them are happy with a cast-iron bucket.”
Sandi, at her wits end, starts cracking up, and Paul turns this into an opportunity for her to tell a joke: “There’s two yaks on an exercise bike. One yak says to the other yak “Oh, I’m really hot and tired, in fact I think I might go to the toilet.” And the other yak says “You’re too late, I already have!”
I know I basically wrote down everything, but I adore that game, as Paul could make it into a way of doing what he wanted, regardless of the scene description. Yes, it may not have been with good improv intentions, but Paul makes it work by still getting a hysterical scene out of it, and still talking about the bathroom habits of yaks (instead of negating a topic of, well, volvos, but that’ll be next show.)
This is the other singing game they introduced this season, and i’d put it a peg below Gospel, simply because it does get a bit tedious, but it fulfills the Hoedown-esque song structure. Also, like the Hoedown, they already hate the game, causing Clive to remark “well, don’t all rush forward!”
Jim, already, gets a taste of the song motif, looks at Richard Vranch, and cracks a smile. I feel like Jim, who knew him from the comedy store, was like ‘this is what you’ve degraded yourself to’, and Richard must have knowingly nodded.
Jim actually has the first wall-to-wall fantastic proto-Hoedown verse on this show:
“March, march, march, march, that’s what we hang-gliders do.
March, march, march, march, YOU CERTAINLY WOULD TOO!
We glide all day, we have such fun, it’s great fun by the pound
Until we forget how to land, and hit the bloody ground.”
That just works really well.
Sandi, like Stephen, loses the scheme a bit, and is cracking and eye-rolling all the while, but manages to land on her feet. AND THEN WE GET TO PAUL…
You would literally see Paul lose himself every time he had to play March or Gospel, and this time is no outlier. He stumbles through, and THANKFULLY lands on his feet with the final one, but…he came close to having to start over, which he’d do many times in this game.
Mike has the longest one, as he’s the one singer in this lineup, but even HE stumbles slightly, though he has a great ending, and a great all-around verse.
This game is pretty shaky, but I got some laughs out of it, even if they all hate this one.
Props: Mike and Paul vs. Jim and Sandi
Clive, pulling a long prop out of under the desk, goes “…oh, sorry, thought that was part of me…”
Sandi: “Trust me, Clive, it isn’t…”
Jim: “I told you it’d work- look, a zebra mated with a python!”
Paul: “Could you have a look at this satellite dish? I think there’s something wrong with it, it’s been picking up crap all day…”
Mike: “YOU MUST HAVE *SKY!*”
Really nice round of props, albeit a bit short.
News Report: Humpty Dumpty- Sandi and Paul in the studio, Mike and Jim in the field.
First of all, Paul and Sandi master the ‘talking to each other quietly before the news report starts’ trope, with Paul even throwing in a ‘this is how big it is’ motion to punctuate it. Sandi and Greg would eventually go even further with this, in a way that’d end up on the cutting room floor (because god forbid somebody gives a WOMAN head on this program…)
The reason this game works, and would continue to work, is how the cameras can frame this like a real newscast- Sandi goes over to Jim, in the field ‘with one of the King’s horses’, and we zoom out to this.
And it’s a seamless zoom, too- so that the ‘angry Mike as a horse’ visual isn’t spoiled from the getgo, also trying to emulate that style of news camerawork.
Mike actually has a great, slightly-camp performance as a miffed Humpty, going through the whole scenario, topped off by a smirking Jim going “I’m afraid the yolk is indeed on him, back to you.”
Clive has to end the scene as the audience groans at that.
Pretty good scene all around, though I wished they’d let things progress a bit more, especially in the studio.
Helping Hands: Paul is a patient going to Dr. Jim (Sandi is his hands)
Sandi has to stand on the World’s Worst step in order for this technique to fully work, but, on the plus side, she’s able to do this:
Sandi seems to get that the idea of this game is to screw over the person who can’t use their hands, so she reaches into Jim’s pocket and pulls out a handkerchief, stuffing it in his face mid-scene.
This is an incredibly silly, near-Pythonesque scene that works because of how broadly Jim is playing it, and how natural his arm movements seem to be to his character.
Also, it ends with Sandi’s hands undoing Jim’s buckle, the culmination of several silly moments of sexual tension. So by gosh, this scene worked, and it worked well, better than last time.
Musical Producers- Election of a Prime Minister- Paul and Sandi describe, Mike and Jim act it out.
So…Mike and Jim’s first segment is absolutely perfect, musically and narratively, and it sets this game off at the highest height, right out of the gate.
Also, I love that immediately after that ends, Sandi goes “It’s good, but I feel like both women are playing it too heavy…”
The second number, done as a rock opera love ballad, is even more powerful, even if Jim, knowingly, takes a more passive approach. It’s not often that Mike can find an equal in a singing game, and Jim is giving him a run for his money.
Sandi: “I think the Prime Minister should die…and in his last death throes…”
Paul, sort-of following: “…….he sings a really raunchy reggae number.”
Even better, as Jim is trying to act and go towards his character’s death, Richard Vranch starts in with the upbeat reggae music, which makes Jim, once again, turn to Richard and crack up.
They do get a really nice reggae tune out of this, and Mike even passes a blunt, which raises Jim’s vocal tone by a decibel.
At close, this may be one of the most impressive all-four musical games they’ve done in a little while, with no flaws, no awkwardness, and…it’s almost exactly like a musical I could see on the West End. Does it rival the Christmas show playing of this game? It very well might.
Overall: We’re three shows in, and not only was this one as good as Episode 1, but it’s even better, and keeps the insane momentum of S3 going. Every panelist was having a great night, every game was hysterical, there were moments of interplay between the performers, as well as between the performers and the show personnel, with Mike having a moment with Clive, and Jim having a few moments responding to Richard Vranch. Jim had his second insanely good show in a row, not having a dull moment in the whole show, and working off of people really well. Mike McShane was tight on his heels, having great musical moments throughout. I’d put Sandi and Paul a few notches below, as despite some nice moments, Paul especially felt like he was on his downswing.
Show Winner: Mike
Best Performer: Jim Sweeney, still a breath of fresh air
Worst Performer: Paul, for not keeping up with the other three
Best Game: …..BOY that’s tough. I could go with Expert Translation, News Report, March, Helping Hands or Musical Producers, and I’d still be satisfied with myself But…I’m going to have to go with Musical Producers, simply because as fantastic as this episode is, I don’t think anything got as strong as that game did. Not even my favorite Expert Translation.
Worst Game: Alphabet, merely because Paul’s confusion stopped it from truly getting going.