What’s the Problem? With Anne Robinson

Friday, June 10, 2005 by

What’s the Problem? with Anne Robinson, or should that be “What’s The Problem With Anne Robinson?” began on Friday night, filling the gap left by Have I Got News For You. This new, allegedly comic look, at the week’s news, current affairs and gossip is a disappointing venture from Hat Trick Productions.

Fronted by the “Anne Droid” herself – for some reason a favourite amongst the powers that be at the Beeb – and co-hosted by Marcus Brigstocke, it is a pretty directionless affair with the writers attempting to shoehorn into its 30-minute running time anything that springs to mind. First appearances aren’t encouraging as even the layout of the set is a disaster, with the co-hosts placed acres apart, having to shout their witticisms at each other. Maybe they don’t like each other: they hardly seem the natural choice for presenters and there isn’t exactly a sparkling chemistry between them. Robinson’s demeanour comes across as spiteful rather than satirical; there is no wit in her jibes at those in the spotlight, in particular Cherie Blair who she appears to have a vendetta against. On the other hand Brigstocke seems to be a more apt choice, but is reduced to trying to make second-hand satire sound interesting and fresh. He can be an entertaining comedian but has yet to be found a suitable format by the BBC, with many of the shortcomings of this show reminiscent of his previous frontman effort, The Late Edition.

Swipes are taken at arbitrary high profile individuals, supposedly from the week’s news, but it appears anything will do if the researchers have found a done-the-rounds photo of a celebrity for the hosts to poke fun at. Has anyone not seen Cherie Blair singing When I’m 64 yet? All this kind of stuff really just elicits a sense of déjà vu; it’s been done with greater skill by numerous satirical programmes, to which this show adds nothing. Indeed, it says a lot about the show when its funniest moment is a clip from another series – BBC 1′s No Win, No Fee. Alas, this sequence also acts as the springboard for a tired sketch in which Brigstocke lampoons insurance claims adverts. Hardly cutting edge.

In between this slapdash set-up is Robinson conducting her interviews. Or, as in the case of the hapless second guest (a French chef from one of ITV1′s many reality/celebrity shows), a toe-curling display of flirtation. These interviews feel stilted and over rehearsed, but with them only lasting a few minutes, there is no time for incisive questioning or illuminating insight. Brigstocke makes the odd interjection from his lofty perch, but all this means is the guests are forever craning their necks round. As for the celebs themselves, well the selection was a tad arbitrary, with the aforementioned chef sandwiched between Colleen Nolan and George Galloway. There was no real point to any of these interviews, and one of the many ways the show could improve would be by cutting down on the number of guests. Three in a half an hour is too much.

With its scattergun approach to satire What’s the Problem? with Anne Robinson is a rather haphazard and pointless proposition. It tries to encompass so much that there is a real sense of desperation in the material, as though the writers believe if they have enough targets to shoot at some of them must work. The result just leaves the viewer confused as to what the show is trying to be. It may very well settle down and find its direction after a couple of episodes, but on the evidence of this opening edition, a second series does not seem likely.


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