Mulligan in a muddle looking for laughs

JESSE MULLIGAN: Scripted humour a bit of a battle on Best Bits.
JESSE MULLIGAN: Scripted humour a bit of a battle on Best Bits.

A lot of you will be familiar with comedian-personality Jesse Mulligan.

He's the bloke who was plucked from the relative obscurity of TV3s 7 Days to become one of the original anchors of the ill-fated Seven Sharp programme on TV One. The anchors must have weighed heavily on the show, because Jesse is the only one left. Greg Boyed showed excellent survival skills by opting to leave and return to being a late-night newsreader, where he does an excellent job.

Alison Mau did not have her contract renewed, something she found out from the media, and as we all know now, in came Mike Hosking and Toni Street to save the sinking ship. That's been pretty successful with much improved ratings, but it has left Jesse as very much the odd man out in the new arrangement. Toni and Mike seem pretty chummy, with their ever so-carefully coiffured hairstyles competing for star attraction. Personally I like Toni's better, with Mike's ruffled little thatch looking more messy than inspired.

That leaves Jesse looking very much the spare part. He joins Toni and Mike on that previously crowded bench on Mondays and Fridays, being out in the field doing all sorts of assignments midweek.

Rumour has it that Jesse was none too happy about staying on Seven Sharp [and who could blame him?], so as a sweetener he was given the extra incentive of hosting Best Bits [Thursdays 8.30pm] Never mind poor old Te Radar, who did a fine job in the first series, he was a bit like Warriors' coach Matt Elliot - no longer wanted.

Naturally it was worth having a look at this fun half-hour of Kiwi humour, which TVNZ bills as "Jesse Mulligan and guests poke fun at the most ridiculous moments from this week's television and more".

The opening sequence suggests all manner of madcap humour about to explode onto our screen. Instead we get the biggest panel and longest bench on telly. Obviously Jesse feels at home with lots of panellists and there are four of them to keep him from feeling lonely.

We start off with a clip from Motorway Patrol "to show just how romantic some Kiwi blokes are" [sarcasm is a staple part of the show]. Some guy who gets pulled over decides to take advantage of the camera and proposes to his front-seat passenger.

He even has an engagement ring, so she quickly accepts. I did see the programme and it looked contrived then, and even more so when it was shown again on Best Bits. The panellists guffawed at that one though.

"If you've just tuned in, that was the finale of The Bachelor, South Auckland," Jesse says with a grin. The panel guffaw at that too.

The Aussie panellist on the show points out that they have to show a percentage of Kiwi shows over the pond and says "are almost all cop shows which show Kiwis as being drunk and violent. In fact I'm waiting here now thinking I'm going to be glassed any time". This gets the loudest guffaws of the night from the panellists.

That triggers a few more anecdotes from the other panellists. One tells of watching two episodes of Motorway Patrol when he was living in Britain. "I remember thinking, I love that piece of road!" Sadly, despite more panellist guffaws, neither Mrs Brown nor I loved that so-called joke.

She reckoned it was already obvious that Jesse's quintet obviously thought the show should be about them, and their feeble attempts at humour, rather than poking the borax at silly things on the telly. Mrs B doesn't miss much [I can vouch for that, she does take steady aim] and she was right. What transpired was a procession of me, me, me jokes which turned it into one of those horrible American comedian panels shows which comments on the "World's Dumbest Criminals" or similar.

Yet another panellist explained why lover boy was pulled over. "He had no warrant of fitness, no rego and he was on a restricted licence."

Cue Jesse looking into the camera ready to unleash yet another of his mortal lines: "Tell you what, you want a restricted licence, try a marriage licence."

This was clearly hilarious for the other people in the studio and the panellists. They laugh hard and long and burst into scripted, sorry, spontaneous applause.

Jesse beams. Another panellist predictably asks him a follow-up question.

"So, how long have you been married for?"

"About three weeks."

They laughed and guffawed at that one!

I didn't like it. Neither did Mrs B. And neither did her dear Mother, who is here to brighten up our existence for an all-too-brief two weeks. Jesse has one fatal drawback for a comedian - he's not funny.

He would do well to look at some old Clive James Show tapes.

The Timaru Herald