Stephen Fry climbs into a buggy made from a giant tortoise shell and collects fried breakfast components off the floor. Griff Rhys Jones climbs down stairs, a plastic fork in his mouth, knocking false teeth and fake hips into a bucket. Myleene Class spends a minute in a box being attacked by a monkey. Martin Clunes balances roast chickens on Les Dennis’s back.
WTF? The type of dream you have when you wash down extra-strong cheese with Absinthe? No. They were all final games in Shooting Stars, BBC’s brilliantly inventive ‘panel game’.
First launched in 1993, created and hosted by double-act Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, the show concluded in 2002 but was revived in 2009. Original scorekeeper George Dawes (Matt Lucas) has been replaced by Angelos Epithimou (Renton Skinner), and Jack Dee has become the latest in a line of team-captains, but the format is essentially the same. A weekly turnover of celebrity guests are foils to Reeves and Mortimer’s surreal humour. Describing events as a ‘panel show’ is a tad euphemistic. At no time in the proceedings is it plain which team has actually answered any of the questions correctly (answers in the true or false round are particularly arbitrary).
But the overall impression is of fabulous anarchy.In much the same way as sketches in SpikeMilligan’s Q5 often ground to a halt long before any attempt at a dénouement or punchline, proceedings are really just an excuse for the hosts to employ daft catchphrases while mercilessly lampooning the competitors. And aside from Vic and Bob's unique talents, it is the willingness of everyone from ex-Pussycat Dolls to Will Self to embrace the absurdist spirit that makes the show.
Amongst the conventional fodder of dull sit-coms and sketch shows continually fed to viewers, Shooting Stars has always been a breath of fresh air. Comic genius? All I can say is that during last night’s spoof depicting a ridiculously camp Bruce Forsyth alter-ego roaming through woods, pockets crammed with cucumbers, blundering into a man-trap, I was reduced to weeping with laughter. Don’t miss.