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It will take more time to get it right

There are some things in life that you take for granted, even if you never quite get round to accepting or embracing them. Like the fact that the vigour and vim of youth will eventually give way to the infirmities of old age -- and then death.

There are also some things on television that you take for granted, such as the enduring brilliance of Have I Got News For You, which has been running (first on BBC2 and then on BBC1) for almost 20 years, during which time it's clocked up an incredible 38 series, at an average rate of two per year, with no sign of a let-up.

On paper -- and indeed on the television screen -- the formula looks pretty simple. Take a suave chairperson, arm them with a witty, prepared script, and then prop them up with two naturally witty team captains, plus a couple of lively guests.

The thing is, though, if it's that simple, how come no other topical panel game has been able to successfully replicate the formula?

RTE1's latest bid to emulate HIGNFY is That's All We've Got Time For, with Barry Murphy on MC duties, flanked by Mario Rosenstock and Kevin Myers wearing the captains' caps.

Beer

The first thing you can say about it is that it's not bad -- not that that's necessarily a positive thing, given that its closest RTE cousin is The Panel. But, you know, it's not bad.

Murphy has the best of it. His opening monologue about the week's events and his links between rounds were frequently sharp and funny -- though to be fair, he's got his script (which I imagine he wrote himself) scrolling up an autocue.

The guests were good value, too. PR queen Terry Prone might not have them spilling their beer in the International but if her witty responses in the think-up-a-headline round are anything to go by, she might bag the odd sub-editing shift on the Herald if the market for polishing politicians ever dries up.

Kevin Gildea was funny, too. I must point out here that Mr Gildea and I have had differences of opinions about his past TV work (his were aired through the letters pages) but I say this without acrimony: HE. WAS. FUNNY.

Weakest

Ironically, what should be the show's strongest point turns out to be its weakest one: the captains. Without the brilliant mimicry of radio's Gift Grub to fall back on, Mario Rosenstock seems a bit lost; timid even.

Timidity is not something you'd ever accuse Kevin Myers of, yet he doesn't quite seem to have grasped the point of his role.

Or maybe that is the point. Maybe his bumbling, straight-man persona is the foil to the other two regulars. Trouble is, it's not very amusing.

But as I said, it's not bad -- and that's a good start, because if you're not bad then there's the possibility that you'll get better. Hope it does.

FOR TOMORROW: Pat will be reviewing My Daughter Amy (C4) and hanging out with Hung (TV3)

STACEY'S STARS

That's All We've Got Time For **


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