First look UK TV review: Never Mind the Buzzcocks (2021)
James R | On 21, Sep 2021
New episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks arrive weekly on Tuesdays.
Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Four words that will transport music fans of a certain age back to the 1990s, or at least the early 2000s. Now, it’s back on our screens once again, with a new home and a new host – and, while there’s plenty of things that remain the same about the music quiz show, it quickly strikes up a tune with a fresh, rejuvenated energy.
Sky Max, formerly Sky One, is no stranger to panel shows, with A League of Their Own and There’s Something About Movies both providing old-fashioned entertainment to subscribers in a streaming age that has moved away from the format. But picking up this old chestnut and giving it a dust-off is a savvy move, as the digital era has continued to keep music on the pop culture radar – and no other TV show celebrates music in quite the same way.
A lot of the series is extremely familiar, including the Intros round, which sees each team try to sing the introduction to a song for the others to guess and the Next Lines round, which is a quick-fire test of knee-jerk recall buried in the nostalgic depths of earworming pop favourites. Even the Identity Parade, which sees the teams scrutinise a line-up of special guests, is back in fashion, although it’s given a twist as the challenge is now to spot the imposter rather than the one genuine celebrity.
The real change, though, is in the panellists, and the new Buzzcocks has got its ensemble finely tuned right from the off. Greg Davies is a natural fit for the presenting role, balancing shouting silliness and withering disdain without ever feeling cruel or confrontational – he’s as aware of his own ridiculousness even as he teases the people in his studio, and they give as good as they get.
Noel Fielding returns as a captain, bringing the same surreal charm and geeky knowledge of music, and he’s joined by the inspired choice of Jamali Maddix as a regular panellist – fresh from a scene-stealing role on Taskmaster, Maddix is the kind of shrewdly worded comedian who doesn’t overshadow a panel show but makes sure every thing he says lands with precision. They’re joined in the opening episode by the always-hilarious Nish Kumar, and the trio click smoothly enough that you’d happily watch them each week.
The other team, meanwhile, is where the show’s secret weapon lies: Daisy May Cooper, one of the geniuses behind BBC Three’s This Country and another former Taskmaster contestant, is howlingly funny as the second captain, capable of making anyone on either team corpse while having a knack for speaking her mind without any filter that feels wonderfully unpredictable. She’s joined in Episode 1 by Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall and singer Anne-Marie, both of whom follow Cooper’s lead in unflinching comments – including some amusingly blunt remarks about Bucks Fizz.
The result is far from the testosterone-heavy fest it could have been, and is anarchic enough to feel surprising and fun, even as it fits neatly into its broadcast-friendly half-hour slot. Perhaps the most welcome and telling change, though, is that rather than wait for its 9pm TV slot on Tuesdays, Sky is also releasing the episode early on-demand so you can stream it whenever you want on your playlist. It’s a smart change for what emerges as a welcome revival of one of TV’s most distinctive panel shows.
Never Mind the Buzzcocks is available on Sky Max. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, for £9.99 a month with no contract. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.