thu 24/09/2020

Would I Lie to You? BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Would I Lie to You? BBC One

Would I Lie to You? BBC One

Call My Bluff, The Next Generation, turns lying into a very funny art

The fact that we humans are, technically speaking, bad liars proves that we are instinctively moral creatures (rather than getting our morals from our god or our parents) and that lying is therefore, evolutionarily speaking, probably a bad idea. You can get away with saying you were caught in traffic, rather than admitting you were in the pub, but a polygraph will pick up on changes in blood pressure, pulse and respiration - those indicators of anxiety you’d rather not be feeling - and your goose will be cooked. But imagine how much more difficult it would be if the lie you were telling had just been given to you on a card, and you had to elaborate on it, on the spot, in response to quick-fire questioning.

Would I Lie to You? is a more pizzazzy version of the gentle, bookish Call my Bluff of years gone by.  I was barely aware of it until recently. It’s one of those shows which you’re more likely to catch on repeat-cycle while mindlessly channel-hopping, looking for something which isn’t Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. At first its sterile Krypton Factor-style set prompted a further hop, but eventually the barren landscape of Freeview’s late-night schedules resulted in me getting drawn in, only to discover that it’s actually quite good.  In fact I found myself laughing out loud two or three times during a single half-hour show, and I rarely laugh out loud.

So it seems strange that this show - my personal respite from insomnia - now has a new series. I’d assumed that – like the universe itself – Rob Brydon and his two panels of twitchy advisories had always existed. Or given the look of the program’s set, had existed at least since 1985. But no, they’ve only been making them since 2007. Angus Deaton was originally at the helm only to be replaced by Brydon in 2009 (what did poor old Angus do wrong this time?) This kind of program is only as good as the calibre of its guests, so the fact that this first episode included two very different actors (professional liars, in other words), in the shape of Richard E Grant and Martin Clunes, meant we were in for some first-class lying, flawless fibbing and consummate elaboration.

But a liar is only as good as his or her lie, and so the scriptwriters have to be credited too. The lies are often surreally sublime yet, teasingly, somehow obliquely possible in this world where the double bluff can be king. It’s also a factor that they sometimes seem tailor-made for each contestant so that, for example, in this episode we were led to entertain the possibility that Fern Britton morris dances whenever she gets the chance. Obviously it helps that the celebrity guests are cherry-picked for having led colourful enough lives to have actually done one or two highly unlikely things. For example, how plausible is it that the regally cool Richard E Grant should have made a Shakespearian rap record, or that Martin Clunes was once genuinely fired (rather than reality-show fired) by Alan Sugar? And yet…

The next layer of mirth-generating material comes from how liars (or truth-tellers) respond when rigorously cross-examined by the sharp-minded likes of team captains David Mitchell (the one that’s always on the telly, not the even cleverer one who wrote Cloud Atlas) and Lee Mack. At times the intensity of their quick-fire banter makes QI look like Countdown. Perhaps it’s the fact that guests already have to have their wits about them to deliver elaborate background stories to the lies, that results in their brains being fully in gear for making the best of their comedic talents too. At one point Mitchell asks Mack, “Lie, Lee?” To which Mack smugly fires back, “No, that’s the name of your Vietnamese bride.” But whichever way you look at it, half an hour passes like 10 minutes - and what more can you ask of a disposable TV show? All it needs is a set rethink (something more QI-ish, me thinks) and it’d be perfect. Next week’s guests include the deadest of deadpans, Jack Dee, the supremely supercilious Peter Serafinowicz, and – believe it or not - Tony Blair. Okay, I lied about the last one… Or did I?

A good laugh quota in this clip from series three on YouTube

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