This riotous look behind the scenes of Saturday morning telly definitely serves up anarchy by the (custard) pie-full but while it’s never short on laughs, the promising concept gets a bit lost amongst the gunge.
With a pre-show warning of ‘strong language, possible nudity and disturbing scenes’ Never Try This At Home invites us to become the live studio audience to the reunion of the presenters of a (fictional) 1970s Saturday morning TV show – the cryptically named Shushi – as they explain the disturbing goings-on that resulted in the show’s notorious final episode.
An anarchic 90-minutes, Never Try This At Home basks in a glow of complete chaotic joy and the boisterous cast are great fun to watch as they flit between playing the fit-and-flared 70s Shushi presenters and their present-day selves. Director Paul Hunter does a good job of creating message out of the madness, juxtaposing scenes of “original” Shushi footage against modern-day interviews with the shamed presenters. He invites the audience to draw their own comparisons between the retro riot of thinly-veiled abuse and the voyeurism of a 21st century chat-show, without ever getting preachy.
However, in this quest to keep the tone on the hilarious side, the point has a tendency to get a bit lost. Where the discrepancy between our horror at past abuses of fame and our continuing thirst for tell-all tabloid chat-shows should make us feel complicit and uncomfortable, instead it falls a little flat and there’s a palpable eagerness to just get back to the outrageous, PC-free, Shushi studio.
There’s a niggle that — like the juicy pre-show warning — Never Try This At Home never quite reaches its full potential, and the promise of revealing the insidious side of fame in any kind of effective way never really comes to fruition. But if you’re looking for a proper belly-laugh (and the possibility of a pie in the face), this show should be at the top of your schedules.