Bob Martin (ITV, 2000-2001)
This is yet another comedy show that I only vaguely remember from the time that I have wanted to see more of and feel deserves a reappraisal, so I was pleased to discover that some episodes are on YouTube. Michael Barrymore was someone who hosted quirky game shows for many years including Strike It Lucky and he was known for his madcap personality, and in 2000 he starred in a sitcom that had something of an edge.
Bob Martin (played by Barrymore, do you get the pun on his name hahaha) is the host of the game show Quickfire. It is a popular show that gives away big prizes and is able to attract celebrity names to take part. It’s steady work for Bob but he strives for something a little more, having tired of the dozy contestants, and most of the episodes are based around his awkward run-ins with well-connected people to try and make sure he maintains his high profile and is seen with the trendy celebrities.
The other main members of the cast are the production team who work alongside Bob. These include the producer Greg (Denis Lawson), the writer/warm-up Vinnie (Keith Allen), and the celebrity booker Beverly (Tracy-Ann Oberman). Bob Martin also featured an impressive list of TV personalities appearing as exaggerated versions of themselves, including in the first series Clive Anderson, Michael Aspel, Johnny Briggs, Eamonn Holmes, Shane Richie, Paul Ross, Jamie Theakston, and Terry Wogan.
Bob Martin was produced and written by Jeff Pope and Bob Mills (who has also hosted TV shows including In Bed With MeDinner that I plan to review soon), and it was sold to viewers as a British version of the American sitcom The Larry Sanders Show. This isn’t a show that I’ve seen much myself, but it does share the basic idea of an egotistical presenter who is professional onscreen, but the production behind the scenes is chaos.
Bob Martin was also sold to viewers to some extent as “hear Michael Barrymore swear!” (he certainly didn’t fail in that area). The first series had 45 minute episodes and it seemed to be a success (well more than the average ITV sitcom is anyway), and Barrymore settled well into this sitcom role. In 2001 it returned for a second series, but this time the episodes were 30 minutes and scheduled rather late at night, and, well… I don’t really need to tell you why there wasn’t a third series.
It seems that some episodes of Bob Martin were released on VHS, but there has been no DVD release, and I probably shouldn’t hang around waiting for one unfortunately. Looking back however I do feel that it was a sitcom that was more a satire of celebrity and showbusiness than actual game shows themselves, and definitely a rather good one.