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When Stephen Fry went on 'Room 101', he lambasted the format and proposed a variant whereby guests named their favourite things. Its easy to see why it wasn't made. Negativity gets big audiences, positivity doesn't. 'Room 101' is unmissable only when the guest is brilliantly funny ( the episodes with Spike Milligan, Peter Cook and Linda Smith spring to mind ). Put someone who used to be on 'Blue Peter' or 'Eastenders' on it and you're in big trouble. Nick Hancock was the first and best presenter; Paul Merton is okay but tends not to put up much of an argument against the guest's choices. To give an example, when Michael Grade selected 'Dr.Who', Merton caved in completely, letting Grade spit his venom. Also the use of out-of context film clips is annoying in the extreme. On one occasion, the American singer Johnnie Ray was shown miming badly to one of his hits. I wonder if the studio audience's hilarity would have been as great if they'd been told beforehand he was stone deaf?
'If you had the opportunity to consign 5 items into the oblivion known
as Room 101, what would they be and why?'. That was the main theme of
this BBC2 show, as celebrities- most of whom we've never heard of or
seen before- choose their 5 pet hates and offer reasons as to why they
despise them so much.
The first presenter, Nick Hancock eventually left the show to host the BBC1 sports quiz, 'They Think it's All Over', only to be replaced by the sarcasm and sardonic wit of 'Have I Got News For You's' Paul Merton.
The format of this show was well put and devised, the idea of selecting 5 things; be it people, places, animals, whatever, you loathe to death is more interesting, when it comes down to entertainment value than say selecting 5 things you like. Besides, in a way almost, negative things generate just as much attention, as well as criticism as that of bad press, which sells. The selection of video clips to illustrate the guests point, as well as Paul Merton's is great.
What I found interesting though is that the guests on the show, many of whom i am totally unfamiliar with myself, select some of the most bizarre and interesting things to put into Room 101.
The show celebrates mediocrity, in a way that is a send-up of the things people considered inferior in their eyes. The humour aspect is a great addition, because even though it is about the things we loathe, we can still laugh at it and make fun of it at the same time and at our own expense. I enjoy watching the likes of Paul Merton take the mick and have fun.
I think that had Room 101 been just about celebrating the good things and selecting people, places, things etc that we consider to be good, no matter how inspiring and uplifting it may be to us, then it wouldn't make interesting viewing as this show is. Likewise, in that case, that would be just too obvious and playing it 'too safe'.
Past guests who have appeared on the show included Stephen Fry, artist Tracy Emmin, Ricky Gervais and the late great Radio 1 DJ Sir John Peel and lesser known celebs such as Linda Smith and Tony Slattery to name but many.
Room 101 is a great little show and a good laugh that deserves a much bigger audience, if it had been on BBC1, although its cult status on BBC2 makes this one of the channel's most under- rated hits.
A novel concept is on offer where a celebrity comes on and states their pet hates and by the choice of the presenter the object of hatred is sent into room 101.Room 101 being oblivion. Nick Hancock was the first presenter and really endeared himself well.Being a fan of 'They think its all over 'I knew what to expect of him and he delivered it.He had his usual dry wit coupled with moments of random outbursts at the guest/audience. Paul Merton was the second host.Again I was familiar with him having watched 'Have I got news for you'.Yet again Paul done what he's good at and remains the shows presenter. The only gripe I have with the show is the range of celebrates and their actual standing.Recent shows have been occupied by z-listers but with a little more quality guests and room 101 will still be a staple of entertaining television
When 'Room 101' began, the British vogue for panel games had yet to
reach the heady heights of 'Tibs and Fibs' or 'Ps&Qs', and so it found
itself committed to the structure of the interview. This structure was
simple. A celebrity, often 'C' list would sit opposite Nick Hancock
reading off a prepared list of things they had a particular hatred for.
Nick Hancock would duly produce an obvious prop to demonstrate the pet
hate (you can imagine what was brought out when someone mentioned they
didn't like 'Baked Beans'), Hancock would work his way through some
hackneyed scripted comedy and video clips, we'd laugh or pants off, and
if the item was deemed worthy of being in 'Room 101' (ie) oblivion,
it'd find itself on a small conveyor belt, (which looked like it had
been nicked from the 'The Generation Game', through some swishy Star
Trek doors to the tune of some chart-topping inanity, usually by Black
Lace. At the time, Hancock hadn't been in TV for too long and if the
guest wasn't quite up to scratch (naming no names) the show sat there.
I say we laughed. We were more than likely laughing at the show rather than with it. It was must-see TV, but only because it was on after the first season of 'Friends' and the alternative was the last season of 'Roseanne' (ugh!). Much of the time you'd tune in to see how smug everyone was going to be.
This lasted, I think, three series. I say I think, because never has show been so unmercilessly repeated. So often in fact that some guests had died since their selections appeared and there is nothing funny about a dead person telling us how much he dislikes the idea of death, when we know that in a few short years . . .
The new 'Room 101' is a whole other animal. Shorn of a cast-off set from the Colin Baker years of 'Doctor Who' and given what looks like something from a west end production of 'The Borrowers' we find the erudite Paul Merton presenting. When Merton began, there was some reservations as to his ability to interview someone -anyone. This somewhat misunderstood the context of the show. Hancock never actually asked many questions. It's not deep for Richard E. Grant to tell us he doesn't like booze (or whatever - I think that was one of his). And so it goes with Mr. Merton. What he is good at it reacting to comments and creating an atmosphere were the visiting guests feels like they have to perform in order to keep up with him. And simply because improv has always been his stock (in trade?) the odd dullish guest (again couldn't think of anyone), doesn't ruin the show. And if a guest is particularly sparky (Anne Robinson, perhaps) he's sure to remind them whose show it actually is.
We laugh now, because at times it is genuinely funny, at times with the show. It's nearly must-see TV - the news or some detective drama being the alternative - marooned until a recent moved into a new Monday Night Comedy slot - and with the introduction of more light-entertainment guests (Mel & Sue being particularly good) things might just improve more.
But of course the smugness is still there - but in a nicer way. The audience is allowed to disagree. Serious and often quite poignant moments creep in (Phil Jupitus). Instead of beating about a subject its often hit with one of those giant Looney Tunes comedy mallets. And for some reason I've been agreeing with the guests more (although that could be my age).
So rather like the devil, if there is still hatred and intolerance in the world, 'Room 101' will still be there . . .
(and finally - in case anyone is wondering . . . dress codes in night clubs, Vanessa Feltz, school holidays, liver in mixed Grills from the chippie, badly designed websites, famous people with nothing to say)
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