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Those of you who have been following my reviews will not be surprised when I say that I love Mock the Week. I massively enjoy British comedy in general with a particular liking for stand up comedy and panel shows such as QI, Would I Lie To You and Have I Got News For You. Mock the Week is one of my favourites in the genre due to it being consistently hilarious as well as featuring many of my favourite comedians. Hosted by Dara O'Briain, the show consists of him plus another six champions of the comedy circuit mocking the previous week's news or just laughing at life in general. An interest in or knowledge of current events, however, is fairly unnecessary in order to enjoy this show as the comedians often go off topic in their attempts to be as funny as possible. Other rounds involve the comedians showing off their stand up talents as well as coming up with humorous satire. Comedians Hugh Dennis, Andy Parsons and up until the recent series Frankie Boyle and Russell Howard appear every week, with others such as David Mitchell, Ed Byrne, Milton Jones and Michael McIntyre (to name a few of many) making up the rest of the cast. It really is the programme to be seen on if you're doing well in the world of British comedy.
Mock the Week is often broadcast on the BBC at 9 o'clock at night, so despite being after the watershed, and thus being able to get away with some swearing and adult content, there is a lot that doesn't make it to air. Some things are simply too blue or potentially offensive to be broadcast, as well as some episodes simply being too long to include all of the best material, but fortunately fans can see the stuff they didn't see on TV on one of the three 'Too Hot for TV' DVDs which have been released. My friend had the first one, which came out in 2007, and I used to watch it often, enjoying a more 'no holds barred' version of one of my favourite comedy shows. I have yet to see the second of the trio, released in 2009, but I was delighted to get the most recent 2010 DVD for Christmas not that long ago.
Mock the Week Too Hot for TV 3 includes an hour of material cut from the series as well as three extended episodes filled with lots of content which was never broadcast on the BBC. In total there is over three hours of fairly near the knuckle hilarity from some of the cleverest minds on the circuit. All of the episodes included were from before Frankie left the show, which I thought was a good decision, as the show has arguably taken a slight downturn without his cynical voice coming from the corner. I have mixed feelings on Frankie Boyle as a comedian in general, as he reuses material almost constantly, making watching him on several different shows or doing live stand up a rather repetitive, and therefore often dull, experience. He has become known as a shocking and often offensive comic, and while I get annoyed at people who dismiss him or berate him for being overly insulting or nasty (if you don't like him, don't watch him or encourage him by bringing attention to his unsavoury material, or it'll continue) he has recently come out with many jokes which are clearly designed more to shock than to amuse, and as a result aren't worth more than a titter and a gasp. His recent series, Tramadol Nights, for example, is pretty poor in general and makes it clear that being given free reign to say whatever he likes without BBC censors isn't necessarily a great thing. To quote Isabel Allende, if 'erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken' - Mr Boyle perhaps should have stuck with the peep show of restraint of the BBC rather than standing naked on the stage Channel 4 built for him
That is to say that Frankie Boyle, whatever you may think of his work elsewhere, really was one of the funniest parts of Mock the Week and it is clear that a lot of the unseen material on this DVD came from him. There's a lot of hilarious content here that otherwise wouldn't have seen the light of day and so it's great to finally see some of it. Having said that, I would have to say that it is Hugh Dennis who is the most consistently amusing of the group. In the comedy act that is Mock the Week he is certainly the 'straight man', often delivering classic one liners and jokes with a serious facial expression. Hugh is the star of Outnumbered as well as radio's The Now Show and I find him to be a very talented and humorous comedian. He and Frankie sit next to each other on the panel and Hugh's more down to earth comedy often balances Frankie's almost untamed stylings, though that's not to say that Mr Dennis can't tell a dirty joke when appropriate. Andy Parsons is someone whose work outside of this programme I am not familiar with, but he is an excellent satirist who does well at poking fun at the week's events as well as getting many laughs in the other rounds. I used to love Russell Howard when I first started watching Mock the Week, really enjoyed his BBC 6 Music radio show with Jon Richardson when it was on a few years ago and like his stand up comedy shows, but recently I've started to tire of him. While his own programme, Russell Howard's Good News, is excellent and always makes me laugh, I've found that on Mock the Week his material is either something I've already heard him say elsewhere or he's talking about how wacky his family and friends are, in anecdotes that probably only have a basis in truth. While I enjoyed this style for a while I'm starting to find it a bit repetitive and dull, and wish they would start inviting his family members on telly if they're all so eccentric and delightful. I've talked about Dara at length in my recent review of one of his stand up reviews so I'll simply just say here that he's excellent and perfect as the host in this show.
While these five are definitely the stars of the the DVD and Mock the Week in general, there are a few of the guests who stood out for me in the clips and episodes included in Too Hot for TV 3. Ed Byrne is probably my favourite of these, with his mini tantrum being a highlight of one of the extended episodes. I have one of Ed's stand up DVDs in which he shows that he is a very funny man and this talented definitely transfers into him being a great guest on Mock the Week. David Mitchell also makes an appearance in one of the clips and while he was very funny here and is probably my favourite comedian in general for his appearances in Peep Show, Would I Lie To You, Qi and my wildest dreams, I would say that being a guest on Mock the Week isn't his particular forte. He often comes out with good material and his trademark rants always make good watching but he rarely manages to get into his stride here alongside the show's resident comedians.
Despite having gone into quite a lot of detail in my analysis of the comedians featuring on this DVD above, I won't talk too much about the precise content of the comedy itself, as, to quote Jimmy Carr quoting someone whose name I don't remember, 'analysing a joke is like dissecting a frog - nobody's really that interested and the frog dies'. I'll therefore stick to saying that the bonus content and extended episodes on this DVD are of the highest calibre comedy-wise, and on watching it together with my parents yesterday we were all laughing out loud at lots of it and at least smirking at most of the rest. If you've ever seen Mock the Week before and enjoyed it then it's pretty safe to say you'd find this DVD pretty amusing. Of course, with the episodes not being from the most recent series but a couple of years ago a lot of the news which they are discussing is at best out of date and at worst utterly forgotten about, but I really don't feel this is a problem. The news element of the programme is mainly something to base part of the comedy on, with the comedians' jokes often purposefully being irrelevant to the topic or story they are 'meant' to be talking about.
I will have to point out that even if you enjoyed Mock the Week as it was broadcast on the BBC, those of you who are offended by bad language and unsavoury content will probably not find this DVD to be ideal viewing material. It's called too 'hot' for TV for a reason, with a lot of it being more shocking or rude than what we normally see on the show. I have to say though that I think it's a shame that people are offended by such material to the extent that it is often banished to DVDs rather than being allowed to be shown alongside the cleaner stuff, as a lot of the most hilarious jokes in the show are only funny and relevant if you've seen the paedophilia based humour from five minutes previously and when one bit is cut it drags the rest with it. I am of the opinion that everything is ok to be joked about and that simply referencing or making light of tragedy or seedier things is completely fine (as long as it is funny, that is - I oppose comedy intended to shock rather than to entertain because it's not amusing rather than insulting) and so wasn't offended by anything in this DVD, though obviously, depending on what you find offensive, you may feel differently so bear this in mind before watching. The 18 certificate gives you an idea of the amount of crude material and bad language you should expect.
In conclusion, I would say that this DVD is an excellent choice for any Mock the Week fan who can handle the heavier or bluer material as it had me laughing out loud for most of it. I received this as a Christmas present from someone who I now regard as a legend for their excellent choice in DVDs, but if I had had to pay for it, I would found its price of £6.49 on Amazon to be very reasonable and worth it for over 3 hours of comedy brilliance. Highly, highly recommended along with Too Hot For TV 1 and 2.