As yet another panel quiz show graces our screens, Quinton O’Reilly discovers if the Bubble does enough to warrant our fickle attention
Have I Got News For You has a lot to answer for. Since its birth in 1990, the topical panel show format has become a staple in every television station schedule. While there are certain gems like QI and Mock the Week, others shows like Would I Lie to You?, Channel 4’s 8 out of Ten Cats and RTÉ’s That’s All We’ve Got Time For haven’t fared so well.
Next in line is The Bubble, hosted by David Mitchell of Peep Show fame. Having guest presented Have I Got News For You, the role of presenter perfectly suits Mitchell’s observant style and dry humour, both in terms of moving the show along and interacting with his guests.
The premise is that three celebrity contestants have to distinguish if the news stories they’re shown are real or fake – the catch being that they live in rural isolation for four days before the show, without any media interaction or communication.
To make things more interesting, the fake clips include professional reporters from ITV and Sky News – but not the BBC, who refused to participate on the grounds that it would undermine their journalistic reputation, a farcical idea considering the fact that in recent years, a number of their reporters have appeared reporting fictional news stories in shows like Doctor Who.
But back to the show itself. It’s a clever concept, and the core of the show – broadcasting the overblown and mostly insignificant news reports that news stations commission on a regular basis means that even the most implausible stories on offer could easily be real.
While the concept is the main comic source, an unexpected highlight of the show is the banter between the guests. As the three guests have been in the same house with no communication, the show lends itself to some amusing anecdotes about their time in exile. This adds to its laidback feel, and ends up being funnier than expected because unlike other similarly-styled shows, they’re being themselves instead of forcibly trying to be funny. However, these moments tend to be unnecessarily punctuated by clips of their exile, though only one or two are briefly shown, which thankfully doesn’t detract from the show.
If there is a major flaw to the show, it’s that it relies on the same trick over and over again until the concept begins to feel slightly tired. There’s an obvious lack of variety in the show but the core concept, combined with Mitchell’s approach, is strong enough to cover this weakness.
That said, The Bubble shows a lot of promise and if you give it a chance, you’ll find yourself enjoying it much more than you would expect. Is that statement real or fake? You decide.
The Bubble airs on BBC2 every Friday night at 10pm.