All entries for Friday 01 August 2008

August 01, 2008

TV Review: Last Comic Standing, Finals Round 3

I have a confession to make. Despite my disappointment at Paul Foot being eliminated, and the mocking I did in my review, I really enjoyed last week’s Last Comic Standing. It had an interesting challenge that forced the comics out of their comfort zone and really demonstrated who could think on their feet, while the interactions and discussions in the house highlighted the differences between the acts comedic stylings and produced some interesting insights into how it all works. I liked it enough that I was really looking forward to this week’s episode. You can see where this is going.

It actually starts interestingly. Louis Ramey tries to get everyone to not pick Iliza if it comes down to it as he’s worried, somewhat rightly, that with it coming down to an audience phone-in then if Iliza keeps getting picked the entire show becomes about her constantly triumphing over adversity and hence she’ll get a lot of votes. It makes sense. Shows like this try and weave interesting narratives and make the contestants into characters in a story. They’re at risk of forcing Iliza into the hero role. That said, this particular show isn’t that good at creating such narratives so I wouldn’t worry too much.

They go to a Sushi Bar where they have to make female body-builders, the Deal or No Deal girls, some frat boys and some “little people”. It’s mostly just really cringe-worthy and embarrassing. Some of the comics are happy that they can finally perform their own jokes to someone as many of them haven’t gigged for nearly a month which is a long time for a jobbing comic that performs every night. They play “I’m Turning Japanese (I Really Think So)”. Yes, it’s that bad.
Louis Ramey
The clue for the task are those fake plastic breast insert things that you can put inside the bra to make things appear larger than they are. Sean Cullen goes off discussing a Star Trek episode: “Maybe we’ll be attacked by gelatinous monster creatures. Who knows?”. Alas, he’s not right. We end up at The Playboy Mansion. The challenge? They get allocated a random story title and have to come up with a funny ‘bedtime story’ and read it to three Playmates. They decide who wins. They’ll obviously be picking the funniest one, and not for instance, the cutest. The girls might be pretty but I can’t see under the two inches of make-up they all have on and the breasts are impressive but probably fake. Given those two factors, they’re really not that hot at all. Anyway.

They giggle lots at Ron G as he’s cute. Or at least the one girl does. He mostly just flirts. Adam Hunter gets off to a bad start as he reads the title “I’m The Same Age As My New Mommy” and they go “Huh”. Bit unfair really. They could have at least chosen titles the bimbos could understand. Adam Hunter does a joke filled story, the vast majority of it going over the head’s of the girls. Iliza does a good job: the jokes are pitched well (ie: low) and includes references to Playboy and such. But she’s not going to win because she’s a girl. Louis Ramey is a bit rubbish again when he has to improvise. It’s not embarrassingly bad but it doesn’t get any big laughs.

Sean Cullen mostly just scares them. Dragons eating people and stuff. It’s brilliant. Clearly he won’t win. Marcus does his movie impressions again. He weaves them together quite well and movie-star impressions are pretty much the level for dim blondes. Jim Tavare again falls into the trap of being far too clever for the crowd by y’know, having jokes. Jeff Dye sort of does okay. They don’t laugh at the bits he expected them to laugh at, but giggle uncontrollably at some throwaway lines.

Hugh Hefner makes a cameo.

One of the girls like Ron G because she has a crush on him. They like Iliza and Jeff but eventually Marcus (“Tattoo”) wins immunity. And: twist. There will be no voting, instead, everyone will perform and the nation will vote, and then someone will be eliminated. Maybe two. We don’t really know. It seems like they’re pulling the entire structure apart this year. Last year there were three head-to-heads followed by 4 weeks of “public elimination” where they all perform 5-minute sets each week, the public votes, and the one with the lowest number of votes each week is eliminated until there are just 2 left for the final. This year it looks to be 2 head-to-heads, this weeks weird one to narrow it down to 6 and then next week is the final final, where the most votes wins.

Interestingly, this could be the sort of twist which will open the door for someone other than Louis Ramey to win. As I have mentioned before, Ramey is solid enough that he’ll never finish last, and when it comes to the final two chances are any of the stranger acts will have been eliminated after 4 weeks leaving just traditional comics, and he’s the strongest ‘traditional’ comic in the line-up. But while he’s solid, he’s not exceptional. He’s nothing special, he’s not particularly memorable. Had we had last year’s structure he’d have made it to the final but he certainly wouldn’t have been first every week. With people instead voting for who they think should win out of 5 or 6 people next week, it’ll be a lot harder for him to win. And the more novelty-focused acts (Cullen and Tavare at this point) have a much better chance. It works out like this: in a small contest between 2 or 3 people, viewers won’t just vote for someone they like, they’ll vote against someone they don’t like. Novelty acts that appeal to a niche audience are therefore at a disadvantage, and those catering to the lowest common denominator at an advantage: “I didn’t like A that much, but I didn’t get B at all so I’m voting for A”. With 6 people to choose from it’s much, much more important to secure votes for yourself, because people that don’t like a given act have 5 other places to go to. So say Tavare and Cullen make the finals with their somewhat different style of performance. People that like their style will vote for them. People that don’t have 4 other places to cast there vote. It splits the vote of the comics that cater for the typical MTV audience. It certainly makes things more interesting.

Still, while that potentially makes next week interesting, this week still sucks. They have dinner. Sean Cullen does the walk of the dead Survivors. Well, he sits in a confessional for 2 minutes and chats briefly about the people that got eliminated. He’s funny: “Little Footy, with his elf-like charm”.

The down-side of everyone (except Marcus) competing is we don’t see the other comics chatting and reviewing their sets. Boo. Adam Hunter… is really really good. I mean he comes alive with this energy and almost feral aggression. The material is decent but there’s a real strength of delivery there. Iliza is up next and she’s doing a lot of new stuff. I don’t understand why, unless she really is running out of material. She’s quite good, but a lot of her jokes, while different, riff off the same ideas and themes. I’m not sure she’d be that interesting for anything more than ten minutes. She does a call-back at the end but it doesn’t work. There’s an awkward moment where Bill Bellamy has to do the “Here’s the number to vote for her” bit but she goes to walk on but he just holds on to her arm without her noticing and ends up getting pulled back and it looks sort of painful. By the way, you can vote by phone or online. Limit of 10 votes per method. Oh, fuck off.

Sean Cullen does a few jokes and then a song about farming. I like it, but it’s not actually that funny. It has a bunch of good lines, but not enough of them. In fact, Cullen is sort of funnier on the show than he is on stage. Which is odd. I finally know where I know him from now. He was in Corky and the Juicepigs with Phil Nichol. If that means nothing to you, watch the YouTube video on this post and it probably will. He’s the larger guy on the right. Would it be cheating for him to pull out that song for the final? I mean Nichol still does it live all the time… He pulls funny faces while Bellamy reads the numbers out.

Tavare is up next. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that he’s actually bothered to go out and find US cultural references to do jokes about which I think impresses the crowd due to the English accent. He does some great one-liners and some funny stuff with the double-bass. And while Bill Bellamy reads out the number to call he climbs up on the double-bass. Awesome.

Jeff Dye isn’t great. A lot of his stuff just doesn’t work and it doesn’t hold together. Ron G is the same. He’s out of his depth and still has a strange tick. He dances and touches his nipples while Bill reads out his number.
Louis Ramey is on last. Again, he’s strong, handles the crowd well and gets laughs and applause. Nothing brilliant, and he utterly fails to understand the point behind bringing food into sex. He over-runs a bit as well but still, good job.

So who’s getting eliminated this week? Well turns out they do reality shows differently over in Yank-land. Although the lines are only open for two hours after the show, we don’t get to find out till next week. Fuck off.

This whole episode really wound me up to be honest. It was a massive let down. I doubt next week will redeem it but we’ll see. At least Fearne Cotton has gone.

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