It's back once again. Given it's on its seventh series, I doubt it really needs a review. Some commissioning editor is either really fond of it, or has had their photograph taken with a discreet young professional, such that its continued existence isn't dependent on praise from the common man. Still, I've started now, and I've not done it before, so I'll crack on and you can decide whether or not to give it a miss. As a little incentive, I've hidden a song halfway through. No, don't look ahead, it's only discernible on a careful reading.
John Finnemore, like a lot of comedy writers has a certain repertoire of styles, and I think it's this consistency which makes the show so strong. While the decoration in the form of particular jokes or scenarios is always clever, these basic types of sketch have a very strong structure. The first is the reveal. A sketch is set up with some very clever preparation, defining character and tone nicely, until a single line from one particular character puts the entire conversation into an unexpected context, in a manner that is always funny. This is best seen in the first sketch, a phone call between relatives. I'm going to sneakily include his occasional penchant for Feghoots in here.
His second particular style is the "mystery of history", in which some historical event, here Nelson's death, is shown to have some unlikely cause or consequence. These can either be relatively common tropes (Nelson) or some pleasantly obscure ones, such as the inventor of the pizza table. It's often surprisingly informative.
Thirdly there is the fictional character who is given a heavy dose of reality. Examples include the Famous Five Take Up Smuggling and Pooh's nightmarish descent into honey abuse. These ones are a particular delight because Finnemore always takes them a step further into the absurd than you are expecting.
Finally (excluding the "Since you asked me"s as they're a pleasant surprise to encounter) there's the rather broad topic of "observational". I think this is probably one that you can't really ignore as a comedian, but it's often done in an entertaining format, such as a cast revolt, or in a charming self-deprecation. Typically once an episode, someone decides that they don't agree with one of the jokes, and an impressively naturalistic bit of dialogue breaks out. And sometimes a song. That happens this week, regarding the pronunciation of g'nu. I do have to feel sorry for Patsy Straightwoman. And I've literally only just got the joke on her first name. That is embarrassing. Have to leave that bit out of the review.
Obviously the jokes and sketches are strong, but this is still pushed further down the quality path by the cast. They've worked together so long now that it's seamless, and inasmuch as it's called Finnemore's show, the cast deserve half the credit. So much so that I'm not going to list them. They're all on the BBC website.
If you don't enjoy it, I might just call you joyless.