The shade. The offense. The jaw-dropping walk-offs.
Never Mind The Buzzcocks was the epitome of anarchic TV and is the very thing pearl-clutchers of 2021 fear.
Hook it to my veins. Immediately.
Yesterday, it was confirmed the music show would be returning – albeit on Sky this time around, rather than BBC – with Taskmaster’s Greg Davies hosting, alongside Noel Fielding and Daisy May Cooper as team captains (and Jamali Maddix as a regular guest).
I can’t pretend I’m still not alarmingly pumped for what’s to come, and can confirm, hand on heart, this is one of the myriad reboots I’m actually in support of.
But I also can’t entertain the idea it’ll hold a moshpit lighter up to its predecessor.
At the risk of sounding like a boomer and musing about the ‘good old days’, Never Mind The Buzzcocks was everything I loved about noughties TV – be it because social media wasn’t as ready to judge, because willingly wayward stars were more plentiful, or because censors weren’t in constant pre-damage control like today when they won’t let aforementioned celebrities within a whiff of a studio. Or all the above.
Never Mind the Buzzcocks originally aired between 1996 and 2015 and was first hosted by Mark Lamarr, then by Simon Amstell, and later by a number of guest presenters, with Rhod Gilbert hosting the final series. All were brilliantly biting and couldn’t give a flip what Twitter had to say about their hosting nor the questionably shocking quips of many guests.
Amstell arguably helmed the most memorable era of the series and is behind incredibly sharable and quotable content that continues to make me gasp all these years later.
Even though he only helmed the show for three years, his ability to rub guests up the wrong way and give their ego a serious deflating made for some of the most brilliant TV. He didn’t give a hoot – we need more hosts who don’t give a hoot, who have the backing of broadcasters who, too, do not hoot.
From Preston storming off after having his then-wife Chantelle Houghton’s biography readout, to still having the last laugh when Kelly Rowland threw a glass of water over him, the host’s job is to rinse the guests and Amstell held no prisoners.
There’s a reason Wikipedia has a section dedicated to the show’s walk-offs.
Even after his departure, the celebrities enlisted didn’t hold back on being their naughty best. The moment Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin’ Criminals smashed a mug in anger when he couldn’t master a game – with Laura Whitmore recoiling in shock – is something we just don’t see on TV these days. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe less offense on our screens is OK. Maybe I crave mayhem in my pop culture diet because, much like Jane, I lead a very sad, little life.
Frankly, Ofcom wouldn’t be able to deal with all the complaints from riled-up viewers should Never Mind The Buzzcocks return to its glorious heyday of X-rated crassness, as viewers clutch their pearls and argue they believed they were tuning into a family-friendly quiz show for a school night jolly.
We’ve seen what happens when Jack Whitehall levels a below-the-belt quip at the Brit Awards, or Katherine Ryan gets into a jousting match with a heckler – it’s hilarious for the many, ‘not funny’ for many others on Twitter, but offensive to just enough who force censors to work overtime to keep everyone happy in a world when not every show is going to be palatable to every audience member.
Never Mind The Buzzcocks was a show that essentially placed a bunch of rich, privileged people in a room and made fun of them mercilessly, or encouraged them to be snide about other rich, privileged people not in the room.
When it comes to guests, who will carry that flame?
From Amy Winehouse saying she’d ‘rather have cat Aids thankyou’ than ‘do something with Katie Melua’, or Jamelia calling Javine a sl*g’, our most famous faces wouldn’t dare utter such things today due to the dreaded reaper of cancel culture, always waiting to swoop and fly away with the career of anyone who steps out of line. (Disclaimer, I’m not condoning offensive views in the name of entertainment.)
Lily Allen was a brilliant fixture on the programme, but does she still want to be the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ singer for hire? The Gallagher brothers of Liam and Noel are always great bants, but is that only on Twitter now? Lewis Capaldi would surely be a hit, with his proclivity for dropping F-bombs on prime time telly, while Ed Sheeran is big enough that he can share stories about other singers he can’t stand and still live to sell-out another arena. Adele is good fun. And we know they’ll wheel Maya Jama out every now and then.
Apart from the captains, the onus was very much on musicians and singers, with the odd reality star peppering the panel as a side dish. Still, when they did appear it was like a sacrificial lamb. Will this reboot be another shot for former Love Islanders to prove their 15 minutes is actually 16, or will producers maintain that same level of music-industry fire?
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So far it does seem bosses are trying to emulate those heady days by bringing back familiar faces in Davies and Fielding and I anticipate this is to waylay any fans (read: me) who, deep down, fear the show will be nothing like the OG.
Fielding is a king of panel programmes and I can only hope he’s preparing to bring the stealthily savage banter to the box. He’s everything I love about 00s chaos – and if Bake Off has numbed his glitter-laden punch of Boosh-ness I’ll riot.
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