Hot Cuss is taking a break due to "technical difficulties" with its writers. We will return on Friday June 1st with more reviews of varying quality of music, TV and "other".
That David Mitchell sure loves his panel shows, doesn't he? Clearly not satisfied with appearing on every episode of every panel show produced in the last three years (slight exaggeration), he's now bagged the job hosting the latest in a very long line of Radio 4 comedy panel games.
Subtitled “the panel game built on truth and lies”, the premise of the Unbelievable Truth is thus: four panelists in turn discuss a subject at length (this week: the human body, morris dancing and carrots), mostly speaking complete and utter nonsense but with the odd true fact thrown in, while the remaining three panelists interrupt if they spot a truth. Even though the show shares many personnel with the daddy of all radio comedy panel shows that is I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (it's produced by Jon Naismith, who co-created the show with Graeme Garden, and ISIHAC's script associate Iain Pattinson does the same here), The Unbelievable Truth is more like its stablemate Just a Minute merged with Call My Bluff.
The guests this week were all panel show stalwarts: Jeremy Hardy, Jo Brand, Clive Anderson and Alan Davies. Of the four, Davies was the weakest: although his interjections on QI are an amusing counterbalance with the usually more knowledgeable contributions from the other panelists, here he seems a bit too far out of his depth. His passage on Coca-Cola was read fairly woodenly, and he made little contribution to the rest of the show. No complaints about the others: all were amusing enough, with Anderson even squeezing in a bit of dig at Mitchell's Mac and PC adverts (which, sadly, Mitchell had no comeback for). Bit surprising to hear Jo Brand use the word “twat” on the radio shortly after 6.30pm, too.
David Mitchell is a competent host, nothing more, nothing less. As a panel show guest his performance can be variable, ranging from very amusing to nearly-silent (though, admittedly, that could be down to editing), but as a host he is no better than average. He reads the script well enough, and adds the odd amusing off-the-cuff comment of his own, but when compared to the calibre of hosts that usually occupy this slot such as Humphrey Lyttleton and Nicholas Parsons, he's decidedly second-rate. A better guest than host, methinks.
Ultimately though, despite the pedigree of the show's creators, writers and guests, the format just doesn't make for particularly amusing or interesting radio. It lacks the silliness and cheekiness of ISIHAC and the open-ended nature of Just A Minute, with less scope for amusing interruptions and fewer subjects per half hour. While the show is intermittently amusing, there just isn't as much scope for humour in the concept as there is in other shows of this type, with both presenter and panel often sounding a little bit bored by it all. As shows in the Monday at 6.30 slot go it certainly beats Quote Unquote, but then the sound of paint drying would be preferable to that load of smug old toss. It passes the time, but I doubt it'll run for many series, and it's certainly not worth going to any great lengths to listen to.