The nuclear apocalypse. Politics. Making typos on social media. Grated cheese going off before you can finish the packet. Having to wait more than 2 minutes for a train. The modern world is a dark place, full of things to worry about. The idea of a TV programme devoted to examining every last one in detail might not sound like the healthiest of things, but that’s precisely the premise of Dave’s latest comedy series.
UKTV’s channel has established itself as one of the country’s best sources of original comedy in recent years, boasting such flagship programmes as the hilariously unique Taskmaster, the wonderfully idiosyncratic (and much missed) Modern Life Is Goodish, and the still-beloved Red Dwarf. Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier sounds rather minor when placed beside them, but the show’s strength is that it fully buys into its own trivial nature.
Richardson, a veteran of Taskmaster and 8 Out of 10 Cats, may not have won Alex Horne’s daft challenges, but his specific talent for fretting is impressive in its own right. He wears his neurosis on his sleeve, and welcomes guests to do the same, as two of them join him every episode to share things they’re concerned about and put them into his massive database of worrying things. In other words, it’s basically Room 101, but with one fewer participant.
Fortunately, Dave is a little more creative than that, and it allows the format to be more flexible than you might suspect. The conversation is varied, thanks to an array of guests such as Josh Widdicombe, Suzi Ruffell, Sara Pascoe, Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan. They address everything from people not sleeping properly and Jon’s body being a weird shape to human evolution and food not being as good as it used to be. The chance to see Nish Kumar and Desiree Burch laughing together about stains in hotel rooms is worth tuning in for alone.
But it’s the structure that’s more impressive. Each episode is free-wheeling and bent to Richardson’s personality, creating something that’s part-panel show, part-stand-up. We divert from the more conventional chatter to detailed analysis of how people stack their dishwashers (complete with pointers and micro-cameras recording the full cleaning cycle), or a lecture on population growth. Cutaways to guest comedians doing their own skits and rants brings a welcome change of pace and tone, while in-studio, we find ourselves watching Josh Widdicombe play Name-The-Neighbours-Soap-Opera-Star or an impromptu singalong based around the phrase “mushy peas”. Serious experts also bring informative insights into sleeping patterns and how first impressions are scientifically formed by our brains – the kind of factual counterpart to humour that has made recent seasons of Radio 4’s The Now Show so successful.
Rather than just put these concerns in a box, Richardson instead ranks them carefully in a touchscreen hierarchy of his concerns – an OCD-like climax to each segment that reinforces how personal this all seems for him. Is the result a modern comedy classic? Not really, primarily because its runtime stretches to an hour instead of sticking to a sharper 30 minutes. (One of the show’s worries, fittingly, is that there is too much TV.) But this is easy-going entertainment that comfortably provides something to watch when you need some breezy, light-hearted telly. And, with the whole box set released all-at-once on-demand alongside the series’ premiere on Dave, you don’t have to worry about waiting each week to fit it into your schedule.
Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier premieres at 10pm on Dave, with the whole box set available on UKTV Play.