Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Don't Want To Say This...

...but in many cases, the British are better than us. As much as I love Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I must concede that the British are better than us at radio game shows. BBC Radio 4 has two new game shows on right now: It's Your Round (premiered February 17) and The Third Degree (premiered February 21)...and well, they're both pretty darn good.

It's Your Round is a comedy panel game show built around premise: Angus Deayton plays host to four panelists, who have each invented a round that will be played as part of the show, coming up with everything from the questions to the scoring system (and if the premiere is anything to go by, said scoring systems are heavily skewed in favor of the round's inventor). After all four rounds have been played, a final round is played featuring questions drawn from the panelists lives; you have to sit out if the question is about you, and the other three panelists can buzz in. While Angus makes a big deal at the beginning about how having the panelists make up the game is saving the BBC a fortune in format fees, the announcer clearly states during the credits that the show was created by Benjamin Partridge.

The panelists on the premiere were Rufus Hound, Miles Jupp, Sara Pascoe and Adam Hills, and their rounds ranged from brilliant (Sara had them creating travelogues for their hometowns in a game called Come To Romford) to stupid (Adam had the self-explanatory Newspaper Headline Or Cryptic Crossword Clue). The quickfire round really breaks up the flow too, but Angus does a great job, and the show does have one thing going for it - it made me laugh. This is a funny show, and that's more than I can say about So Wrong It's Right or Late Night Liars.

So we come to The Third Degree, hosted by Steve Punt and built around a "generation versus generation" motif: each episode is taped at a different college and pits three of that college's students against three of its professors. The premiere, for example, was taped at the University Of Southampton and pitted an English student, a biology student, and a math student against an English professor, a biology professor and a math professor.

The show manages to pull that concept off. The rounds are a good mix: we get rounds in which each student plays against the professor of their subject, we get rounds in which the professors are asked pop culture questions and the students academic questions, we get general knowledge. Steve, too, turns in a good performance, being allowed to add just enough silliness to keep this from becoming an ultra-staid affair in the vein of, say, Brain Of Britain or Round Britain Quiz. As with It's Your Round, I can't think of much to complain about here. Do I like jumping on the "The British Are Better Than Us" bandwagon? No...but in this case, yes they are.


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