Having recently looked at wonderful feel good TV shows, hilarious comedies, captivating dramas, and enlightening documentaries, this week we turn our attention to another of commercial TV’s very strong suits: pure, untrammelled entertainment shows, the stuff smiles are made of. Here are ten of the very best to enjoy.
1. Britain’s Got Talent (ITV)
In the challenging times we are living in, it was an especially welcome return for Britain’s Got Talent to ITV this month.
All of the audition rounds were filmed before social distancing came into effect so it’s business as normal for the show until the live rounds at least.
Ant and Dec were back as masters of ceremonies alongside judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, David Walliams and Alesha Dixon for the 14th series of the show since it debuted in 2007.
And the best news? Britain’s still got talent.
What they say: ‘Precisely the sort of feelgood, family friendly escapism that the nation needs right now.’ Daily Telegraph
2. Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back (Channel 4)
Consumer affairs programmes aren’t supposed to be funny, but then along came Joe Lycett.
The comedian made headlines last month when he changed his name to Hugo Boss in a protest against the German fashion brand (he’s since changed it back to Lycett).
It was just one highlight of his Channel 4 show, now into its second series, which mixes the serious and the trivial, the funny and the important, doing good and making you laugh at the same time.
What they say: ’TV's most risk taking comedy.’ The Guardian
3. Dynamo: Beyond Belief (Sky One)
Dynamo’s first new TV series for five years is an extraordinary journey in more ways than one.
Dynamo: Beyond Belief takes viewers around the world to showcase his characteristically breathtaking magic, from Mexico to Dubai to Japan, while also charting his recovery from serious illness.
'I believe that now more than ever people need a sense of magic in their lives,’ said Dynamo. Seconded.
What they say: ‘Thrilling, spine-tingling tricks …. He read minds, melted tequila bottles, made water boil and drove a taxi blindfolded through busy city streets. Backwards.’ Daily Telegraph
4. Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier (Dave)
Very possibly you think you have enough to worry about right now but Jon Richardson’s panel show about the perils of modern life is a very welcome distraction.
Ultimate Worrier features Richardson and guests including James Acaster, Sara Pascoe and Tom Allen picking apart the things that keep them awake at night and it’s a relatable delight.
A self-confessed obsessive worrier and organiser, with Richardson we know we are in safe hands.
What they say: ‘He’s a man on a mission to ensure every dishwasher is correctly loaded, and he’s going to use this nationwide TV platform to preach that gospel.’ Chuckle
5. Celebrity Juice (ITV2)
Keith Lemon has been all over since he first appeared on ITV2 in his Very Brilliant World Tour in 2008 - the Keith Lemon Sketch Show, Lemon La Vida Loca, Keith Lemon: The Film, the Keith and Paddy Picture Show and ITV’s Through the Keyhole reboot.
But he’s never better than when he’s at the helm of Celebrity Juice, ITV2’s gloriously silly (and filthy) panel show that’s been described as ‘Have I Got News For You meets Heat magazine’.
Leigh Francis stars as Keith Lemon alongside team captains Holly Willoughby and Mel B and celebrity guests. It’s what the watershed was invented for.
What they say: ‘If you’re not laughing, the joke’s on you.’ The Guardian
6. Russell Howard's Home Time (Sky One)
There’s no-one better to guide us through the sheer oddness of the world at the moment than Russell Howard.
The veteran of Sky One’s The Russell Howard Hour has retreated to his childhood bedroom for the twice-weekly Russell Howard’s Home Time, featuring celebrity guests, unsung heroes and a pledge to ‘spread some joy in these strange times’.
‘These are terrifying, confusing, heartbreaking and boring times, and all these emotions are swirled together,’ said Russell. ‘But within the horror there are glimmers of absurdity [and] so much information that you can be funny about.’
What they say: ‘A far cry from the usual polished studio sets, Russell Howard gives his unique perspective on current world events.’ British Comedy Guide
7. Eight Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4)
As one-off specials go, Eight Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is a particularly long-running one.
The hybrid of (you guessed it) Eight Out of 10 Cats and Countdown was originally intended as a one-off programme as part of Channel 4’s 30th anniversary celebrations back in 2012.
Nineteen series and more than 120 episodes later, the comedy quiz has become one of Channel 4’s longest-running shows.
Presided over by Jimmy Carr alongside team captains Sean Lock and Jon Richardson, each element of the two original shows perfectly complements the other.
What they say: ‘Almost too funny.’ Buzzfeed
8. Dave Gorman: Terms and Conditions Apply (Dave)
Dave Gorman is joined for his latest Dave series by three guests each episode as he explores the invariably baffling oddities of the modern world.
Richard Osman, Katherine Ryan and Marcus Brigstocke are among those joining ‘the high priest of comedy PowerPoint’ for his latest Dave series (his Modern Life is Goodish is also available on-demand).
‘I’m still trying to navigate my way through the bombardment of non-stop information,’ said Dave. ‘But hopefully, this show will prove I’m far from alone in finding it all quite so baffling.'
What they say: ‘Quirky, smart and a lot of fun.’ TV Guide
9. Celebrity 5 Go Caravanning (Channel 5)
Take five celebrities - Colin Baker, Sherrie Hewson, Sonia, Todd Carty and Tony Blackburn - send them off on a caravanning holiday together around the country and see what happens next.
A lovely example of why the best ideas are often the simplest, it’s all the more enjoyable because messing around with our mates on holiday is precisely what none of us is doing right now.
C5’s ‘Celebrity 5 Go …’ format extends to the likes of Barging and Camping. Staycations don’t come much more fun than this.
What they say: ‘Hilarious … What they lack in star power they make up for in entertainment value.’ Daily Mirror
10. Funny Girl: The Musical (Sky Arts)
In these challenging times none of us will be going to the theatre or a concert any time soon, but we can still enjoy a night out from the comfort of our front room instead.
Critics loved Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice in this acclaimed stage revival of Funny Girl, first in the West End and then at the Manchester Palace Theatre where Sky Arts was there to capture the action.
It’s just one of numerous theatrical events available on-demand on Sky Arts, including Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Il Divo: Timeless Live and Stephen Mangan in Birthday at the Royal Court. Too numerous to mention them all, in fact.
What they say: ‘Great is a vastly overused word but Sheridan Smith’s Fanny Brice in Funny Girl is indisputably one of the great performances on the British stage and is well worthy of preserving on film for posterity.’ Musical Theatre Review