Tuesday 26 March 2019

Loose 'Panel' left swinging with leaden D'Arcy


PURE FRUSTRATION: Colin Murphy and Neil Delamere on The Panel
PURE FRUSTRATION: Colin Murphy and Neil Delamere on The Panel

I like the panel, by which I mean the people who make up The Panel. Colin Murphy and Neil Delamere are very funny, very likeable comedians.

I just wish, wish, WISH (I'm saying it three times in the hope it might come true) that the finished product was sharper, tighter and funnier,.

Originally, The Panel was a wholesale steal from Have I Got News For You, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you must steal, steal from the best -- but make sure you get the good stuff.

Unfortunately, The Panel has mostly been turning up loose change and pocket fluff. The departure of regular host Dara O Briain has left the show swinging in the wind a little.

There's no structure, no discipline. Most of the time Neil Delamere, who's good at thinking on his feet, seems to be the only person in the group who knows how a show like this is supposed to work.


Otherwise, it's just a bunch of comedians vying with one another to see who can squeeze in the best 10pc of their stand-up act. Jokes are shoehorned into the exchanges on flimsy pretexts.

It makes for a shabby 50 minutes, which is too long for this programme, and it felt longer in the hands of guest host Ray D'Arcy, who was dour, leaden, hesitant and humourless throughout. He seemed to think he was presenting a straight current affairs programme.

Even guest Kevin Myers, whose earnest presence could chill the mood of a funeral, had to remind D'Arcy during a long-winded, laugh-free exchange that he doesn't always intend his columns to be taken seriously. Sometimes he's just having a laugh, which is more than you can say for Ray or The Panel at the moment.

There wasn't much humour, or much of anything, in Buyer Beware!, an uneven new consumer affairs series with Philip Boucher-Hayes that falls somewhere between Watchdog and The Cook Report, without nosing close to either.

Boucher-Hayes was on the trail of bogus charity-clothes collectors, the ones who shove those suspect-looking sacks through your letterbox. The clothes end up in Eastern Europe, where they can fetch €40 per bag.

The real money is to be made raiding charity clothes banks, which gangsters do by slipping a small child through the hatch to pass out the bags. Boucher-Hayes claims the child is often left in there overnight.

Boucher-Hayes put a tracking device into a jacket and staked out a clothes bank. He caught up with the culprits and retrieved his jacket in a van full of bags belonging to charities such as Enable Ireland and the St Vincent de Paul.

Since the gardai are currently powerless to do anything about it, the programme ultimately had a half-hearted feel and you couldn't help thinking that if some people are gullible enough to fall for such obvious scams, they can't complain.

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