TV Cream

TV: B is for...

Brain Drain, The

MOSTLY TEDIOUS panel thing hosted by JIMMY MULVILLE, who would invite planted audience questions for four comic panellists to answer via their own stand-up acts or, in the odd isolated case, an actual natural wit. Almost all of the latter was provided by the magnificent TONY HAWKS, the resident performer in every episode who frequently showed up the rest of the panel for what they lacked and single-handedly salvaged whole episodes. Sometimes it was association with Hat-Trick rather than real observational talent that got guests on, with STEPHEN FROST in particular only able to raise a laugh when responding to the sound effects round (“Siamese twins having a wank?”). Proper comedians like FRANK SKINNER, NICK HANCOCK and JIMEOIN helped matters along though the second series was also hindered by the residency of an overly misandric JO BRAND, who seemed to include men, alcohol and cakes (“Don’t heckle me, I’ll sit on your face”) in just about everything she said. There were questions from celebrities in the audience (JILLY GOOLDEN, DAVID GOWER, NEIL KINNOCK, TONY BLACKBURN) which didn’t aid the process greatly (except when JOHN McCRIRICK made a verbal pass at Brand and she responded with real poison), and Mulville himself admitted afterwards the show didn’t work. Opening titles showed a head being cracked upon and a pinkish slime emerging to run down towards a grating in the gutter. Newsnight’s next.



  1. Louis Barfe

    June 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    The one with a panel consisting of Hawks, Craig Ferguson, Angus Deayton and Les Dawson makes fascinating viewing. Dawson’s very much on his guard. It’s as though he suspects he’s been booked as the fall guy, when in fact he’s easily the intellectual equal of everyone else on the show. Needless to say he storms it. The material’s tried and tested, but many of the audience hadn’t heard any of it before, so he’s a revelation. Less than a year later, he was gone.

  2. David Pascoe

    June 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I used to bloody love this show when I was 17, Craig Ferguson was always great value on it, whether he was discussing the invention of cheese as food’s greatest breakthrough (“You leave some milk until it starts growing fur and then someone says, ‘You know, that would look great on a cracker’.) or tearing apart “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” as his least favourite song lyric “A song which has a line, ‘And we laugh, Ha ha, ah ha ha’ That’s GARBAGE!”

    No matter how big a star he becomes in America, no matter how many cameos in big budget Hollywood movies, to me he’ll always be the man who gave us, ‘Someone’s crying my lord, Kumbayah. Someone’s dying my lord, Kumbayah. Someone’s hoovering my lord, Kumbayah’. “Do you know what I think, Kumbayah means? I think it means, SO WHAT!”

  3. TV Cream

    June 9, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I always say this, but the last good Spitting Image joke involved Neil Kinnock desperately trying to reinvent himself as a media personality, which involved him announcing to everyone “I’ve been on The Brain Drain!”

  4. Matthew Rudd

    June 9, 2010 at 9:55 am

    The Ferguson stuff is funny, but it was part of his stand-up act for the previous five years and more. He also had the nerve to do his “why do Turkey enter the Eurovision Song Contest” shtick as well. Funny, but lacking wholly in originality. They may as well have just done seven-minute sets each to fill the half hour.

  5. Chris Diamond

    June 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I also remember Lord Dawson on this, working his Mordechai Appeal Fund schtick (whether it was about the birds or the snails, I’m not sure.) The reason it sticks in my mind is because the odious Deayton spent the time Dawson was monologuing trying to affect boredom in the most crass schoolboy manner imaginable (pretending he was nodding off, elbow slipping off the table and so forth in ha-hi-hilarious fashion.) Everyone else was laughing of course. That’s laughing *with* Les, Angus. You twat.

    Needless to say, Dawson was the funniest thing on it.

  6. Matthew Rudd

    June 10, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    After the first series, they didn’t get any “old school” turns on. The best they could manage was Pete McCarthy who showed a particular knack for providing good captions in the photo rounds.

  7. David Pascoe

    June 12, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    To those who didn’t see Stephen Frost’s great “Siamese twins…” contribution, the clip he had to listen to was of two men arguing going, “I’ve got it”, “No give it to me”, “I’ve got it, its mine”, “No let me have it!”

  8. Tom Ronson

    March 25, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    I remember a gag on Week Ending around the time this series was shown – ‘After Jimmy Mulville admits that drink and drugs nearly destroyed his career, he says that appearing on Brain Drain finally did it.’

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