This it can be assumed due to the hosts Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s falling in and out of love with their own creation than any great dissatisfaction from the BBC 2 controllers.
Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer remain the chaotic hosts – a Gilbert and George veneer of normality and civility hiding an interior of strangeness and anarchy. Physically time has not changed them much – Vic more tanned, both a bit paunchier – but how about their comedy? – is it as surprising and surreal as those shows from the opening two series, or the format being over-familiar now and no longer catching us out, has it become as formulaic and tired as the quiz panel shows it haphazardly if semi-affectionately parodies?
The format remains the same – in no particular order the quick fire rounds, the dove from above, the club singer question-come-performance, the cartoon pantomime violence, the mock (crap!) prizes.
But the only human constant outside of Vic and Bob is Ulrika Jonsson who looks as mildly bored and bemused as she ever did as one the shows team captains, as did her original adversary Mark Lamarr – he eventually moved on whereas Ulrika remains under Vic and Bob’s spell – or perhaps in lieu of other work a reasonably lucrative contract?!
Mark Lamarr’s role was taken over by novelist Will Self and now by comedian Jack Dee – all three affecting a droll air and a feeling of wanting to be anywhere else but here in this team captain role – one assumes it is nothing more than an act but you are never quite sure!
Jack Dee one presumes moonlighting in this role taking time out from Lead Balloon which as well as starring in he also co-wrote – a kind of UK Curb Your Enthusiasm with Jack Dee as Rick Spleen in the Larry David role – though as the final episode of series four of Lead Balloon was called ‘End’ perhaps not!
Another change is the score-master – the original Matt Lucas no longer in his role as George Dawes though I think a testament of his love for the show that long after Little Britain became hugely popular in both the UK and the USA he still appeared in that role up until 2009.
Now though this role is taken on by Dan Renton Skinner as Angelos Epithemiou who is looking up at those shooting stars perhaps but whose feet are most certainly in the gutter.
As for the team members they are a gloriously random and perverse selection of folk of varying degrees of celebrity as they ever were – and where it seems at least one per episode is chosen due to their likely lack of familiarity with the show adding to their bemusement indeed bewilderment with its proceedings.
In this first episode of the new series this latter role was fulfilled by Brigitte Nielsen – who if not shocked was certainly astonished at Vic and Bob’s antics – taking them a little too much at face value I thought! She was on Jack Dee’s team along with Graeme Hawley who if you are not a Coronation Street fan you may not know who he is – the street’s serial killer now deceased! On Ulrika Jonsson’s team were comedian Ross Noble and celebrity Chef James Martin.
Comedy routinely subverts the quiz show medium – think QI, think 8 out of 10 Cats – but none as much as Shooting Stars where the format is almost an afterthought, and in which its invited panel-members no matter how famous and vocal often reduced to no more than a few lines as Vic and Bob comedy caper around all and studio sundry. And as per its format the winning team captain Ulrika Jonsson had to pick one of her team-mates to undertake a final humiliating and pointless challenge for a pittance prize – James Martin the unfortunate chosen for this episode who had to deposit various food stuffs into various tins secreted around the studio floor – yes really!
With the irreverence of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer towards the format and their guests it is perhaps surprising the show has lasted as long as it has – yet it seems it is they themselves who were not able to shake of its yolk becoming seduced by the very panel quiz show structure they so lampooned. Other shows of theirs such as ‘The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer’ and ‘Bang, Bang It’s Reeves and Mortimer’ were not constrained by any such formulas and formats and their humour and sketches even more surreal and skittish – and which I liked all the more for that – but those very constraints of Shooting Stars paradoxically are what has sustained it giving them an anchor against the otherwise Will-o’-the-wisp nature of their comedy.
Shooting Stars may now be beyond its sell-by date but even in this less than fully savoury tasting condition I am still happy to consume another six half-hour doses of it for this series eight.
- Shooting Stars: Grace Dent’s TV OD (guardian.co.uk)
- Shooting Stars: 10 best moments (guardian.co.uk)
- Vic & Bob : the Shakamoto Effect (mraybould.wordpress.com)