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Smug carr doing something right

Topical news shows have come a long way since That Was The Week That Was and Hall's Pictorial Weekly. For one, there's no real need anymore, it seems, to get scriptwriters in to fashion a biting sketch on a current headline. Secondly, you don't really need to treat the news in any way seriously.

Very much in the vein -- and shadow -- of Have I Got News For You?, and not a million miles away from Mock The Week, the distinguishing feature of 8 Out Of 10 Cats (C4, 10pm) is the fact that it bases much of its core material on, as host Jimmy Carr puts it, "opinion polls, surveys and statistics".

Which basically makes this the smartarse's answer to Family Fortunes. Only with a smugger presenter.

To be fair, Carr's a very funny stand-up, with a wicked sense of humour. He's just got a very smug personality. And a laugh that could stop traffic. Which makes the idea of putting him in a room packed with comedians determined to score points off the board, and one another, seem almost cruel.

Last night's comedians included, of course, team captains Sean Lock and James Manford. The latter looked positively relieved to be away from his other regular TV gig, presenting the all-new, all-bombing One Show on BBC1. Being sarcastic about poor unfortunates in the news comes far more naturally to Manford than feigning interest in Cathy Kelly's latest offering.

Joining Sean was twee Newcastle funny girl Sarah Millican (imagine Corrie's Mavis Riley crossed with Victoria Wood) and yesterday's lad Johnny Vaughan, whilst Manford had to make do with horny housewife's choice Jon Richardson and young confused hubby's choice Louie Spence. All were happy to reveal a little more about themselves than perhaps their mothers would have wanted. Millican likes buying baby clothes, although she hates kids. Richardson likes to wear t-shirts that are too small when he's feeling sensitive, as they feel like a hug. Johnny Vaughan's a prat.

As is so very often the case, it was the older, wiser participants who proved the funniest, Carr getting perhaps the biggest laugh of the night when, having addressed the recent tabloid story that David Beckham had paid two prostitutes to engage in a 'lesbian romp', he quipped, "If David Beckham likes two women at the same time, why did he marry a half?".

Nothing to write home about, or fall off the couch laughing at, but they're plainly doing something right here, with 8 Out Of 10 Cats now on its ninth series.

With the Labour leadership about to be decided, the sweetly bitter -- or is it bitterly sweet --docudrama Miliband Of Brothers (More 4, 9pm) took a timely look at the rise and rise of David and Ed, from idealistic young Oxford students to 'bitter rivals' for Gordon Brown's old chair.

It was an intriguing and titillating piece of work, the young sons of Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband soon finding themselves at odds with a father who believed that the modernisation of Labour started by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s was a betrayal of the party's socialist roots. That Ralph's two sons would be instrumental in making that betrayal come true -- as David became part of Tony's team, and Ed part of Gordon Brown's -- was irony verging on tragedy.

Played by real-life brothers Henry and Ben Lloyd-Hughes (fans of The Inbetweeners will recognise the former as bully Mark Donovan) with enough passion and pathos to make the Miliband brothers both sympathetic and pathetic (Harry Enfield's Tim Nice-But-Dim sprang to mind more than twice), the cartoon reconstructions were given some welcome gravitas by such talking heads as Tony Benn, political commentator Andrew Rawnsley and Kinnock. Ultimately, it hardly matters which of the two brothers should triumph, given that they're pretty darn difficult to tell apart. Politically speaking.