Going strong

Hugh Dennis, Dara O Briain, Andy Parsons and Chris Addison

Hugh Dennis, Dara O Briain, Andy Parsons and Chris Addison

First published in Tonight's TV The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

Mock The Week (BBC2, 10pm)
Playhouse Presents: Psychobitches (Sky Arts 1, 9pm)
Live at the Electric (BBC Three, 9.30pm)

IT is hard to believe that Mock The Week has been running so long.

When the first episode aired in June 2005, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg had only been MPs for four weeks, and David Cameron was a largely unheard of MP in his role as Shadow Education Secretary.

Fast-forward to today, and these no-longer-fresh faces are leader of the opposition, deputy PM, and prime minister respectively – and Dara O Briain is still chairing one of the funniest shows on our screens.

The regular panellists have changed over the years – Frankie Boyle, Russell Howard and Rory Bremner have all moved on, and Hugh Dennis is the only person, aside from Dara, to have appeared in every episode.

For this series, Hugh and Dara are again joined by Andy Parsons and Chris Addison each week.

The show is now in its 11th series, and will pass the 100th episode-mark in a fortnight, but what’s the secret of its success?

Well, one of the best things about the format is its reluctance to take in guests based on their celebrity status: instead, it’s all comedians, all the time – so you’re guaranteed plenty of laughs.

Take this week’s panel – comics Carl Donnelly, Jo Caulfield and Milton Jones.

Donnelly has been a professional comic since 2005, and has been nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award – he is also a familiar face thanks to his work on several panel shows.

Caulfield has been on the circuit for most of her adult life, and even opened her own comedy club after entering a handful of open-mic nights. Again, she is a household name because of her work on panel shows and televised stand-up spots.

And absurdist comic Jones – who has appeared on radio, TV and stage – won a Perrier Award in 1996 and has never looked back. He has even had his own sitcom, Milton Jones’ House of Rooms, on Channel 4.

All three have been on Mock the Week a number of times in the past, and have proved to be hilarious time and time again. You don’t get variety with Mock...

what you get is pure, triple-distilled comedy every week. And surely that’s the point?

The programme’s competitive nature has proved frustrating for comics in the past, some of whom have felt disappointed that their material hasn’t always made the edit. Dara explained the issue in an interview with The Telegraph: “Some guests worry that they are not getting enough jokes on.

“Well, everyone complains about that, including me. Each show takes two-anda- half hours to record and there are six comedians all trying to get their jokes in.

That works out as four minutes per comedian.

I don’t know if I’d even get on Mock the Week if I wasn’t the host.’’ With so much material to choose from, we viewers really are treated to the cream of the crop from the editing suite – there’s no filler gags here.

JEREMY DYSON may not have a face you immediately recognise, but you know his work.

The scriptwriter has been responsible for some of telly’s most hilarious comedies, including The League of Gentlemen.

Now, we have the latest and final instalment of this fantastic Playhouse Presents series to thank him for.

Leading ladies, including Catherine Tate, Katy Brand, Sharon Horgan and Sheila Reid, ponder what the most famous women in history were really like – and act it out for our viewing pleasure.

Rebecca Front stars as a psychiatrist whose clients include people such as Joan of Arc (Brand), Judy Garland (Samantha Spiro) and Mother Theresa (Reid) – and they are all ready to share their innermost secrets.

If you’ve been a fan of this series, this isn’t to be missed – Sky Arts has saved the best until last.

IT’S summer, apparently, and the weather’s miserable and even though it’s Thursday, the weekend still feels like an age away.

There’s only one thing for it; half an hour of laughs, brought to your living room courtesy of Russell Kane.

And this guy seemingly has it all. It was only last year, when not only did he manage to impress John Humphrys on Celebrity Mastermind for Children in Need, he managed to win the show with his knowledge of Evelyn Waugh. He’s got the humour and the intelligence nailed.

For now, though, that chair-in-the-spotlight is nowhere to be seen, as he concentrates on his first love – comedy.

Russell is on hand once again, alongside performances from the likes of Joe Wilkinson and Diane Morgan, Nick Helm and the Helmettes, Totally Tom and Lady Garden. Go on... enjoy yourself.

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