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A Few Notes on an Audience Screening of That Puppet Game Show, 20th July 2013

Posted 21st July 2013

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Yesterday, I went to the third audience screening of That Puppet Game Show – BBC One’s great Autumn Saturday night entertainment hope, co-produced with The Jim Henson Company. Official synopsis time:

“Each week two top name celebrities will be plunged into That Puppet Game Show – a unique world of puppet comedy and madcap games. As the only humans who appear on the show, the celeb contestants will be going head to head in a number of games, hoping to win £10,000 for their chosen charity. They’ll compete in subjects such as sport, science, celebrity, nature, music and mental agility. Each of the games is run and hosted by a different puppet character, who is an “expert” in their field. But that’s only half the story…

In a unique twist, That Puppet Game Show is the first gameshow to include a backstage sitcom. It features all the puppet characters that we’ve met onstage and more, like the producer Mancie and the bullish Show Executive, Udders McGhee. Combining the comedy traditions of The Jim Henson Company and a top celebrity based gameshow ensures that this will be an amazing event, not to be missed!”

Does the show live up to the breathless copy above? Here’s my lazy, bullet-point-ridden report.


The show is an interesting mix. On one hand, it feels very modern; the graphics and main set are almost cliched in terms of Saturday Night Entertainment. Yet the behind-the-scenes sections feel extremely old-school – in the best possible way – in terms of their presentation. This blend of the old and the new automatically appeals to me; the programme is nothing like anything currently airing on Saturday night telly. Exactly what the BBC should be doing.

The weak points of the show are very obvious. It needs better celebrities, better scriptwriting for the behind-the-scenes sections, and the feeling of the show would be immeasurably improved if at least some of it could be shot in front of an audience. However, it’s a show I very much want to succeed. Moreover, once I’d left the recording, I started looking forward to when I’d see the next episode, which has to count for something. The format is lovely; the production just needs some refining and tweaking.

I hope they get the chance to do it. The flaws should, of course, be recognised – but I hope the show isn’t stamped down on and dismissed. It deserves better.

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