At the risk of overstating the following observation in the following review, there’s quite a strong Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation vibe to the new Channel 31 game show 31 Questions (which airs in Melbourne and surrounding regions at 10pm on Saturdays but can also be seen on YouTube). Maybe it’s the Micallef-esque mannerisms of host David M. Green, or the unexpected interjections from the show’s Moderator Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, or that the questions are written by comedy writers? Put it this way, we’d be surprised if the production team aren’t Micallef fans. And that’s fine with us, because of those Australian comedians currently in the spotlight Shaun Micallef’s the one we’d prefer to be influencing the next generation.
But leaving the possible Micallef influence aside for a second, 31 Questions is doing a lot of other stuff right. Aware that it will never be able to compete with flashy shows like Deal or No Deal, it uses its low budget to its advantage by getting laughs out of a deliberately crappy set, the host’s outfit (a cheap-looking question mark-covered jacket), and their inability to offer a decent prize (the winner gets a signed photo of David M. Green). There’s also a fair bit of scripted material; episode 1 starts with a sketch in which David M. Green meets ex-Sale of the Century host Glenn Ridge, and throughout the show there are lots of scripted (and a few improvised) tête-à-têtes between the Host and Moderator.
What you won’t get from 31 Questions (so far, at least) are any Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation style physical challenges – they’re probably way beyond the budget of the show – but it’s interesting to note that this is one of the few game shows we can think of which puts the comedy elements associated with celebrity panel games into a show with real contestants. In Australia the only examples we can think of are Rockwiz and (stretching the definition of comedy a bit) It’s A Knockout; thinking internationally, you probably have to go back to the early ‘90s and Sticky Moments with Julian Clary or seek out an episode of the BBC’s game show Pointless, a straight game show which is enlivened by the back-and-forths between the hosts, comedian Alexander Armstrong and comedy writer/producer Richard Osman. (If you can think of any other comedic games shows we’ve missed please leave a comment.)
Whether making more game shows into quasi-comedies, or even fairly overt comedies like this one, is the next big thing in TV…who knows? But in the meantime, why not check out the low-budget hijinks of 31 Questions. Apart from everything else, it’s the kind of show which looks set to get funnier over time. What’s on the bookshelf? What’s with the various items on the Moderator’s desk? Is there some kind of tension between the cast members? And how’s the role of hostess Melanie Valentine going to develop? We’re intrigued…