As Seen on TV, BBC1

On the 40th anniversary of the moon landings, scientists are still trying to extract useful minerals from the lunar surface, and in a similarly barren endeavour, producers are still availing to squeeze humour from a TV panel game about television.

Despite aping Have I Got News For You and Buzzcocks, It’s Only TV But I Like It metamorphosed the audience into a fleshy impression of the Easter Island statues, and while a gentler brand of humour is present here, it’s often just as futile.

The brilliance of Harry Hill appears to have intimidated the BBC that the philosophy of relentless mockery should be avoided, so As Seen On TV instead worships at the altar of pseudo-celebrity, one that identifies Nell McAndrew and Jordan as idols or Any Dream Will Do worthy of something other than unadulterated scorn.

And also one that tries to cast the likeable Steve Jones as the next Simon Amstell. While Jones is a decent TV presenter, he isn’t a comedian. For jokes, he adopts a tone where he starts to speak more slowly as if trying to excavate the city of Atlantis from the bottom of the ocean by the sonorous power of his voice alone. And during his delivery much of his face outside of his twinkling, swirling eyes looks dead, resembling panicking fish thrashing muddily in the last desiccated puddles of the Nile amid a lifeless, arid savannah.

Of the guests, Tina Hobley seemed to be censored as if she was Gerry Adams’ voice circa-1988 to the point where Mollie Sugden would’ve given better value, while team captain Fern Britton has been passed hastily to As Seen On TV from This Morning like an unwanted child into the flaking hands of surly step-parents.

Fortunately, the witty Jason Manford has been hired to at least provide some laughs, and Lauren Laverne and Pauline Quirke were lively guests amid the mire of predictable ego-massaging and ideas plundered from equally asinine game shows of yore.

Some of which, perhaps through a nostalgic familiarity, did actually entertain – the Tiswas sketch when Lenny ‘Trevor McDoughnut’ Henry was confronted by Trevor McDonald, or Sylvia from Hi-De-Hi in the Thingie off the Telly round (even if she does now look like Jon Pertwee with the Panama Canal for a smile as though its alighted there like a distracted butterfly), while The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry is always welcome.

But the most odious crime of all was Jones’ habit of referring to the sides as ‘Team Fern’ and ‘Team Jason’ as though the whole exercise was a team-building mission in the Californian countryside for a bunch of sunblast-toothed, spade-haired executives who habitually commit the semantic sin of employing ‘task’ as a verb, all vulgarities that are becoming more seen on TV week by week.

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