Couch Potato: ‘The Puppet Game Show is more gristle for BBC1’s Saturday night mincer’

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OUR Sunday columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

Since Louis Smith held aloft Strictly’s glitterball trophy, BBC1 has hurled all sorts of gristle into its Saturday night mincer (no, not Dale Winton).

Out of desperation came a Clare Balding quiz, an animal clips show hosted by a man in a dog costume and, last night, Gabby Logan telling Len Goodman: “Put the pork pie on Burpham.”

So my hopes were doing the limbo ahead of their latest emergency-cord pull, That Puppet Game Show.

Another turkey, I assumed.

No siree. It’s the best new light entertainment series in four years, reinjecting the fun into Saturday nights that’s been lacking since BBC’s sourpusses axed Total Wipeout.

Like Roland Rat saving TV-am in the 80s, puppets have come to the Beeb’s rescue.

Not just any puppets either. Jim Henson Company puppets.

And because it’s a game show, not simply The Muppet Show: The Next Generation, the pair of celebrity contestants become stooges in a sketch.

They’re the butt of the jokes, the victims of a glorious 45-minute stitch-up and a necessary sacrifice to the TV gods.

The fact they’re merely the side billing to the characters means the show can absorb a celebrity ego, starting last night with Jonathan Ross’s usual innuendo routine, and fire comedy right back at them with interest.

It’s also blessed with an exceptional team of writers whose collective transatlantic credits include That Mitchell and Webb Look, Seinfeld and Cheers.

And the games are, without exception, funny.

Who knew Jonathan Ross and Katherine Jenkins squeezing hotdog puppets with barbecue tongs in the correct order so they’d sing I Wouldn’t Walk 500 Miles would give me belly ache from laughing so hard?

I could describe the other games but I honestly can’t do them justice.

Just know that Ross and Jenkins bouncing up and down on trampolines behind a fence to answer observation questions is genius, likewise the autocue round where the audience sees the joke coming moments before the celebs do.

And any show that requires celebrities to punch themselves repeatedly in the name of entertainment (“The crotch, Jonathan! Don’t forget the crotch!”) has got to be good.

It all makes the weaker elements forgivable, like Muppet Show-esque events backstage, canned laughter and the fact anchor puppet Dougie Colon should be American, not a Vernon Kay clone.

And it answers the question posed by a puppet watching the show at home: “You know telly’s supposed to educate, inform and entertain? Which one’s this?”

All of the above.

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This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...

The haunting Sean Harris in C4’s outstanding Southcliffe.

You Saw Them Here First providing an excuse to roll out the old clip of Simon Cowell dressed as a novelty record 6ft blue dog.

Soccer Saturday’s Jeff Stelling going all Basil Fawlty as the scores failed to come in: “I’m warning you, videprinter, if you don’t get your act together I’m going to thrash you to within an inch of your life.”

Daybreak hero John Stapleton firing back at rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins’ claim that: “The British public are sick of hearing about human rights.”

“Well, you are.”

And the explosive aftermath of Big Brother’s inspired decision to get housemates’ relatives to do the nominations, with Charlie, exposed as a schemer, muddling her words: “I’ve never spoken behind Gina about her back.”

I believe you, Charlie.

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Stephen Fry is on a quest to discover his rights and privileges on receiving the Freedom of the City of London, for ITV’s Key to the City.

“I have no idea what this freedom means. If I’m going to accept this honour, I’m going to penetrate the City of London.”

Pretty certain it doesn’t allow you to do that, Stephen.

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Giants from the world of science assembled for Doctor Who: The Next Doctor – Professors Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox, Robert Winston, Bruno Tonioli, Tiffany from EastEnders...

All of them fuelling BBC1’s ludicrous hype last Sunday night.

Though none could rival Zoe Ball: “The tension is unbearable... The internet is melting... It’s so exciting, I’ve got clammy palms.”

She went one step too far, asking Bernard Cribbins: “It was your character Wilf who caused the last regeneration of The Doctor. Do you still feel a bit guilty?”

“No I don’t.”

What with it being a FICTIONAL KIDS’ SHOW.

As for Peter Capaldi? Great choice for Doctor Who, huge gamble for Capaldi.

I am, however, certain of one thing.

The next Malcolm Tucker will not be a woman.

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Diets don’t work. We all know that, right?

And we certainly don’t need a trumped-up little TV journalist jetting between Britain and America, at licence fee payers’ expense, to tell us over a tedious hour.

“I’m Jacques Peretti...”

Oh.

“...and tonight I’m going to be...” jetting between Britain and America, at licence fee payers’ expense, to tell us over a tedious hour.

So came BBC2’s The Men Who Made Us Thin, at 9pm on Thursday, with these staggering new insights.

“Diets are not effective.”

“Diets don’t work.”

“When are people going to wake up and realise diets are not the answer?”

10pm on Thursday, Jacques.

At least the waking-up bit.

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This week’s Most Surprising Admission To Being A Yeti award goes to...

Doctor Who Live’s Liza Tarbuck: “The show allowed us to sneak a look when you weren’t meant to and consequently scare the bejesus out of yourself.

“I say that as a yeti.”

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Union J boyband member and Daybreak guest entertainment correspondent JJ: “Jaymi and I decided to stay in on Saturday night to watch Your Face Sounds Familiar.”

And they say rock n roll is dead.

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C5 reject Brian Dowling is trying to reinvent himself as This Morning’s “TV supremo” despite the fact he clearly hasn’t watched telly since Radio Rentals closed their stores.

Eamonn Holmes informed him: “The White Queen is all about ye olde merry England but none of it was shot in England.”

Dowling: “You know more than me.”

Street kids in Bangalore know more about British TV than you, sunshine.

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This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...

Court jester Louis Walsh quitting The X Factor.

BBC2’s Porridge getting bumped because of: “The late finish to the women’s golf.”

The almighty relief that This Morning’s interview with the parents of three-year-old eye cancer sufferer Tyler Martin didn’t, for once, feature Katie Hopkins.

Big Brother cretin Dexter Koh using the word “disgenuous”, which is as imaginary as the make-believe world he inhabits.

Ex-EastEnders John Partridge and Nina Wadia showing they’ll take any muck-spreading TV job – This Morning’s phone-in competition duties.

Whatever next? Hollyoaks?

And Alesha Dixon rounding off Your Face Sounds Familiar with this threat: “See you next year.”

Not if I see you first.

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You Saw Them Here First’s Claire Richards on her early pop days: “I had a crush on Peter Andre and he was always on the tours. I used to spend my time mooning around corridors trying to get a glimpse of him.”

Narrator Robert Webb: “Mooning with Peter Andre? Isn’t that a show on ITV2?”

No Rob. But give it six months.