Despite what some previous blog posts suggest, I like chat shows. This may be partly down to a distinct lack of ‘chat’ in my own life, or perhaps because chat shows offer a way to switch off without feeling too guilty. They are the thinking man’s X Factor.
That said, I have been increasingly disillusioned with the ones on TV these days. So when I saw Michael McIntyre’s little face pop up on BBC iPlayer, I was excited enough to do my own hair flop and camp skip (if only the size of London property would allow it). However, last night’s episode compelled me to check the reviews of the show so far, as its format drastically differed from the previous two episodes.
My suspicions were immediately confirmed. It turns out people aren’t too impressed. An article on the Guardian accused Michael of “anodyne, sycophantic questioning”. Has the writer never seen Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross? Sycophancy fuels most chat shows.
He said The Michael McIntyre Chat Show 'continues to consist of offering overblown compliments. Madeley was told he was a "legend", while Joanna Lumley was told that she's "utterly tremendously ridiculously fabulous"'.
But isn’t this just classic Michael McIntyre – excitable and a little bit camp? Michael never comes across as un-Michael. His flattery is straight out there, rather than laced in every over-gesticulated laugh, falsely enthusiastic question and faux fascination in PR-approved answers from guests.
Michael's show is a refreshing break from the usual chat show smarm. The guests on his show, so far at least, haven’t just droned on about their latest film or album. They have actually looked like they've wanted to be there.
Alas, the show has lost 400,000 viewers since its launch two weeks ago. Critics say it’s been a case of ‘miscasting’, that as well as sycophancy, Michael's questions lack probing and insight. But what about Graham Norton? A chat show veteran, yes, but one that dotes on his guests to a sickening degree.
There’s no disputing Michael is one of the country’s most successful comedians – so what’s wrong with him just being funny? We’ve already heard anything remotely interesting most of his guests have to say, and I personally couldn’t care less.
One critic said the show is “more about the host than gaining insights into the guests.” And that’s exactly why I like it. I watch the show for Michael and I can’t be the only one. If people want hard-hitting questions they can go elsewhere. If he likes to go at it soft, I say we embrace his ways. Michael clearly has.