It’s probably not Jack Dee’s fault that comparisons with Curb Your Enthusiasm have been made to his Lead Balloon (BBC2, Thu 15 Nov, 9.30pm ••). Sure, Curb’s ‘Larry David’ and Lead’s Rick Spleen work in similar areas of the entertainment industry and walk into a social faux pas at virtually every corner but it’s a little bit like comparing Balamory with The Sopranos because both have got coppers in them. There are reams which could be written about the differences between these two shows, but here’s an example: one of Curb’s most glorious linguistic conceits was in having a simple typo which turned a moving obituary tribute into a disastrous public profanity. The opening episode of Lead Balloon’s second series gobbles up valuable airtime following Spleen as he tries to get out of a promise by proving that he said ‘a’ and not ‘the’. Chalk and cheese. Night and day. Funny and absolutely unfunny. Those are the only kind of comparisons which are merited here.
It actually takes nine people to write one half hour of The Armstrong and Miller Show (BBC1, Fri 23 Nov, 9.30pm •). If you make a ridiculously simplistic and patently boneheaded arithmetical analysis, this means each writer has just over three minutes screentime. Yet, they can’t come up with one single laugh with all that graft. In the course of a week, I have shorter chats with the postie which at least succeed in raising one mild titter per exchange. Yet these two former Fringe cults have sketches with WWII RAF men talking in modern day teenspeak, a chap managing to worm his way out of being caught in flagrante with his colleague’s wife and some scientist guy turning into a mutant after a bad day at the lab. For once, this really is as hilarious as it sounds.
To be fair, I expected very little from Armstrong and Miller, but The Omid Djalili Show (BBC1, Sat 17 Nov, 9.30pm ••) is a big let-down. Having proved himself to be an original and astute entertainer on the nation’s comedy stages, it was inevitable that the British-Iranian who has had roles in The Mummy, Gladiator and The Bill would eventually get his own TV show. But Saturday nights on BBC1 just before Match of the Day? No one would have predicted that. However, the sketches and stand-up (much of which will be familiar to anyone who has paid for a ticket to see him live over the last seven years) are empty shells of nice ideas though his impersonation of a posh football fan abusing Wayne Rooney and his camp Scottish documentary-maker trying to get more screen charisma out of Osama Bin Laden are all-too rare moments of pleasure.
Within that context, it’s not exactly a glowing recommendation to say that women are responsible for making two of the least calamitous new comedies. Angelo’s (Five, Fri 16 Nov, 11pm •••) is written and created by Sharon Horgan, the Irish talent behind BBC3’s Pulling, and while her gallery of unfortunates contains a few stock types (charming Mediterranean café owner, slutty X-Factor wannabe and unattractive stalker type), it has enough light wit to keep the pot boiling. Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show (ITV2, Fri 16 Nov, 10pm, •••) is more of a full-on sketchfest which concentrates a little too much on celebs (Kate Moss as wide school bully, Kate Winslet as normal country girl, Angelina Jolie as sensual jungle dweller) and on stretching out a joke beyond its natural life, but for sheer verve and, yes, big assedness, this is worth a shout.
Among all this rather flat newness, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the return of The Mighty Boosh (BBC3, Thu 15 Nov, 10.30pm ••••) is the current comedy highlight. For those still cocooned from characters such as murderous cockney The Hitcher, jazz-loving Howard Moon, Naboo the psychic shaman and Goth girls Anthrax and Ebola, it’s time you broke free from that comedic incubator. Well, I say characters, but the species on screen here are simply little slivers of beings gnawed from the worryingly feverish imaginations of Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. The Mighty Boosh is far from a lead balloon.