Duck Quacks Don't Echo, Sky 1 | TV reviews, news & interviews
Duck Quacks Don't Echo, Sky 1
Lee Mack's panel show about improbable facts needs more substance to support the jokes
It’s an improbable fact worthy of five minutes’ ironic banter that there are so many panel shows presenting five minutes’ ironic banter on a series of improbable facts. Lee Mack, presenter of Sky 1’s new take on the genre, Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, has been a team captain on BBC One’s Would I Lie to You? for the past six years, so has had the time to get his head round the most improbably amusing facts.
If your mind craves even more improbable facts, there’s always Radio 4’s The Unbelievable Truth, chaired by David Mitchell, Mack’s opposing captain on Would I Lie to You? Mack and Mitchell could almost be said to have established a cartel in improbable-fact-based panel shows, if it weren’t for the domination of QI and Stephen Fry, deity (or perhaps godfather) of the improbable fact.
There are of course some varieties in these shows' formats, but they all share to some degree a scholastic flavour. As chair, Fry is professorial, Mitchell a junior lecturer with something to prove, and Rob Brydon (chair of Would I Lie to You?) the sarcastic teacher. The first of Sky’s innovations with Duck Quacks Don’t Echo has been to remove the debate from the seminar room and place it, in spirit, in the pub. In keeping with this shift, the programme dispenses with the team competition in favour of a cosy huddle. If viewers can mentally airbrush in a couple of packets of crisps, ripped open for sharing, contents scattered among three pints of lager and a J2O for “sporty” Mel C, the scene would be complete.
At least testing whether Mack and Mel C could hang upside down when stuck to the ceiling with superglue had a potentially amusing consequence.
For the friendly pub atmosphere, Sky has invited another comedian to spark off Mack - this time Dara O’Briain - alongside two more cuddly entertainers. The producers have opened their cheque book to secure guests from the showbiz elite for the first series, with (among others) Miranda Hart, Sue Perkins and Jimmy Carr filling the comedian’s seat, and an impressive array of TV faces, from Sir Terry Wogan to Sara Cox, playing the straight man.
In fact, the personnel worked well. The programme’s problem was the content. Topics were not resolved with a QI-style disquisition, but empirically, with a combination of short investigative films and practical demonstrations in the studio. With QI’s questions about Noam Chomsky substituted for lightweight popular psychology and an investigation into dog urine, there’s not enough substance to bear the weight of the lengthy investigations. The films were inconsequential, and the studio experiments an anticlimax after some enjoyably bubbly chat. At least testing whether Mack and Mel C could hang upside down when stuck to the ceiling with superglue had a potentially amusing consequence.
Next up, the same pair went to look for glow-in-the-dark puppy pee with a small torch. They found it, within seconds. Readers can create for themselves the popular phrase expressing the concept of laying hold of urine, but that’s what this otherwise promising show is destined to do if Sky doesn’t find meatier fare for the team’s investigations. That, and provide an improbable fact for another show about the shortest-running show about improbable facts.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Twitter votes no but Scotland puts out a cheerful welcome mat
Return of 19th-century industrial saga is dingy, drab and didactic
Beethoven, Berry and Black Sabbath: cracking the rock'n'roll code
More drama than musical in TV adaptation of the inspirational true story
Maritime series washes up on screens at the wrong time of night
Dennis Kelly's tortuous spine-chiller roars back in lethal form
A generic mutation has come back from the grave, and it still sucks
Stories of the tunes the Beeb refused to play
The inside story of the biggest fraud in sporting history
Jimmy McGovern shines a light on both the humanity and legality of joint enterprise
Television's premier dramatist on righting wrongs in his new courtroom drama Common
In which Hugo Blick tackles the personal and political complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian question