A Look Back at Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive - The Show That Paved the Way for Modern WILTY?

Much like Extras, or The Larry Sanders Show. Annually Retentive attempted to turn the panel show genre on its head, by giving us a show within a show. One half was the real panel game, with real panellists, shot in front of a real audience at television centre. The other half contained supposedly candid moments where Rob plays a cynical, heightened, and somewhat mean-spirited version of himself (think Larry David’s Curb your Enthusiasm). In this guise, he presides over the panel game – Annually Retentive, a quiz that focused each episode on events in a specific year.

All seems well on the surface, but behind the scenes Rob keenly remarks about how unhappy he is with the show, his career and pretty much everyone he works with. The great thing about Annually Retentive is how many comedians and celebrities were involved with the show. Jonathon Ross, Jimmy Carr, Dave Gorman (as one of the team captains), Mitchell & Webb (although not at the same time), Elton John (yes, the Elton John), Russell Brand, Jo Brand (all the Brands), James Corden, Frankie Boyle, Sharon Horgan (as the guest booker), David Walliams.

From Griff Rhys-Jones to Claudia Winkleman, you name a comedian, and they were probably on this show. In true Extras style, they pop up beyond the panel game. In one episode Rob goes on Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langford’s then talk radio show to promote Annually Retentive.

It ends up with Rob and Ruth in bed together eating biscuits, then Eamon Holmes walks in. It’s all completely daft but great fun. Curiously, Annually Retentive and Extras seemed to have both come along at almost exactly the same time. However, something Annually Retentive had over Extras was that its show within a show was an actual real, (albeit partially scripted) panel game.

As previously mentioned, it was made in front of a real studio audience. Which makes you think there was probably the best part of 3 hours of footage per episode, that we sadly never got to see. A criticism I have is the run time, there just wasn’t enough time for us to get into both the panel game and Rob’s backstage subplot, and therefore so much great stuff from the recording was undoubtedly cut.

The big question is, did Annually Retentive inadvertently pitch Rob Brydon as the perfect host for Would I Lie To You? It’s a theory of mine that it probably did. Would I Lie To You? Ran for two series with Angus Deayton hosting the show but in 2009 Rob Brydon took over hosting duties.

Meanwhile, Annually Retentive ran from 2006-2007 and was Rob’s only work in that ilk. The most interesting preludes to Would I Lie To You? Come in the episode featuring David Mitchell. It’s quite possibly the first airing of Rob’s now ‘famous’ David Mitchell impression and in the moments that we just saw the panel game, I was briefly lulled into the belief that I was watching a Would I Lie To You? Clip.

Back in 2009, Rob (who had written the series with Paul Duddridge ) was asked by a fan on twitter if Annually Retentive would ever return, he replied simply ‘never’ but then encouraged them to buy the DVD. Looking back at it now, the acerbic tone doesn’t really suit Rob Brydon, who is too firmly fixed in our consciousness as the affable funny man which he is. The show is in lots of ways deeply cynical about panel games, in much the same way Extras was about studio audience sitcoms – heavily implying that some material is scripted, or the topics that are going to be discussed in the show are previously arranged between the panellists. True, or not (and that would really depend on how different production companies operate) it was quite a controversial point to make.

With all the celebrities that graced Annually Retentive in its relatively short run of thirteen episodes across two series, it’s surprising how little known this show really is. It would have been great to have seen more, maybe across a slightly longer running time, but for now it’s very interesting to have a look back at it with the hindsight of Would I Lie To You? Particularly the episode featuring WILTY’s own David Mitchell.


Originally published on The Comedy Blog: https://thatcomedyfan.wordpress.com/

Written by Rhianna Evans

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