The Taliban: hardline religious extremists who back their beliefs with bullets. The Irish Republican Army: unstoppable urban guerillas who waged a bloody savage war for Irish independence. WHO IS DEADLIEST? There's only one way to find out. FIGHT!
It's a joke that's been made several times since Deadliest Warrior started on TV in the UK. For those of you not watching Bravo at 10pm on Tuesdays, this is a show that uses computer simulations and re-enactments to compare fighters from different periods in history, to see who would win in a scrap. Rumour has it that the series finale, the IRA vs Taliban face-off alluded to above, has been deemed a little too close to home for UK transmission. So one lunchtime, I lashed together a quick video that rammed Deadliest Warrior's macho posturing up against Harry Hill's whimsy, topping it off with a ten-second montage of landmine and flamethrower killings edited to the Riverdance music.
Sadly it was rejected from YouTube (for reasons of copyright rather than atrocious taste), so you won't be seeing it here. But here's a funny thing I discovered while searching for relevant clips on YouTube to cannibalise: for the last month, an Australian TV channel has been showing their own adaptation of the TV Burp format.
If you're anything like me, then Harry Hill's TV Burp is probably the only time that the ITV button on your telly gets to see any action. (Yes, I know there aren't buttons labelled ITV on tellies any more. It's metaphorical. Shut up.) For those of us who'd followed Harry Hill's career from Fringe standup to low budget Channel 4 sketch show, it came as a surprise to discover that he could work just fine on prime-time mainstream TV simply by taking the mick out of other programmes in a family-friendly way.
The format seems so geared towards Hill's skillset, you couldn't imagine it being packaged up and shipped elsewhere. But it has been: the 7 Network is currently showing an Australian version of TV Burp, starring Ed Kavalee, on Thursday nights. It's got the same theme tune, the same sets, the same jingles, the same camera angles as the original. The one thing it doesn't have - which is ironic, given the search I was doing that led me to it in the first place - is the legendary pre-ad-break FIGHT! sequence. (Mind you, it appears that half-hour Australian TV shows have three ad breaks compared to our one, and that's probably more fights than anyone could stand.)
The other thing it doesn't have, of course, is Harry Hill himself. Ed Kavalee certainly couldn't be accused of trying to impersonate Harry, but there are definite similarities in their delivery. There are certain types of jokes - the quick aside to a camera to his left, the way he'll throw extra punchlines over the end of a clip - that appear to have been copied directly from the way Hill presents the show. It makes you wonder just how much of the style of TV Burp is documented in the wodge of paperwork that 7 obviously inherited when they bought the rights. In the end, Kavalee's surreal takes on the shows he reviews can never reach the soaring heights that Hill's do: but then, you could say that about virtually every other TV presenter on the planet.
7 Network's TV Burp official site has loads of clips for you to watch, and inevitably every single one is blocked to non-Australian viewers. No worries: a nice YouTube user called rudeness181971 is uploading episodes in four chunks within hours of their transmission. And when you watch them, you notice a very peculiar thing: just how similar the show is to the UK version, not only in its style and humour, but also in the actual clips they're using. There are the soap opera sections, with Home And Away and Neighbours fulfilling the roles that Eastenders and Corrie do in the UK. There are imported UK and US shows that we already know. And even when we get down to the Australian shows for domestic consumption, they're either recycled formats from elsewhere like TV Burp itself, or shows that may as well be recycled. (All the gags regarding the ludicrous injuries on medical show All Saints would transpose perfectly to Casualty, for example.)
TV Burp Australia is recognisably an Australian show - the jokes are just a little bit ruder than we'd get on ITV prime time, in particular. And it's very funny in parts - the writers have put in the hours, and Kavalee makes for an enthusiastic host. But it's weird the way the show demonstrates the globalisation of television: that wherever you go in the world now, you'll find the same sorts of programming everywhere. (In the five episodes I've seen so far, I can hardly think of any jokes that require you to be Australian to get them.) Nevertheless, I like it a lot.
And I like Harry Hill's TV Burp too. But which is best? There's only one way to find out...