I had assumed Never Mind the Buzzcocks died at the height of its success, like Jimi Hendrix or Axel F’s Crazy Frog. In fact, since it was last on the BBC in 2015, Buzzcocks has been in TV rehab and now, cleaned up and outsourced to Sky Max, it’s making a comeback.
The revived pop quiz risks falling between two demographic stools: the kids who regard anything before Stormzy’s Glastonbury set as ancient history, and the old farts who aren’t sure if Arlo Parks won the Mercury prize or is the last stop on the Piccadilly line. Trying to bridge that divide is like solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, or getting me to watch Love Island. A lot rides on new host Greg Davies and team captains Daisy May Cooper and Noel Fielding, though they seem less representative of diverse Britain (if more relatable and brainy) than Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
This week, Cooper’s team was – something I never remember happening on Buzzcocks before – all-female, proving what most of us know already that women can be as foul-mouthed and cranially corrupted with useless data as men or talking parrots. Fielding claimed not to have left the studio since Buzzcocks was last on. Which confirms my suspicion that Bake Off is hosted by Sue Perkins in a Noel Fielding mask and that Matt Lucas is Mel Giedroyc in a fatsuit.
Davies brings to the role his ex-teacher skills honed on Taskmaster to controlling a bunch of fractious kidults. For instance, unprompted, Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall told Davies the worst thing that happened to her in 2021 was what a seagull did to her face. “I was really lucky it was a solid shit,” she opined, “because if it had been runny it would have gone in my mouth and my eye.”
The format persists with, and I say this through gritted teeth, old favourites such as the intros round and the one where contestants have to sing the next line to an, open quotation marks, well known, close quotation marks, song. What comes after “I believe it’s meant to be darlin’ – I watch you when you’re sleeping’”? “ I’m a dirty old man?” suggested Nish Kumar, sensibly. The correct answer was “You belong with me,” and the song is Eternal Flame by the Bangles. Or as the kids call them, The What Now?
Historically, the identity parade’s purpose was to decide which of four gnarly old duffers played bass on Tales from Topographic Oceans. But only after the teams had heaped ageist abuse on all four, which is harsh on the three-quarters of them who spent the 1970s stacking shelves in Catford. And yet, under BBC hosts Mark Lamarr and Simon Amstell, this was how the pop quiz rolled: Buzzcocks wasn’t so much mock the week as mock the weak.
Indeed, perhaps Buzzcocks was cancelled by the BBC because it seemed ever poised to fall over the event horizon of its own toxicity into the black hole of its self regard. I feel so strongly about this because since Buzzcocks started in 1996, I have become a gnarly old duffer. Don’t look so smug. You will too.
Here the ID parade had a twist. Instead of three impostors, there was only one. Who is not a member of Eurovision-winning combo Bucks Fizz, asked Davies. “Number four looks like he could talk to ghosts,” quipped Jamali Maddix. It’s number two, you plums, I howled at the screen.
To be fair, nobody under 40 knows who Bucks Fizz are and the rest of us have spent four decades trying to forget. Let’s review: 1981 was so culturally null that Eurovision was won by a quartet whose two men, at the culmination of their routine, tore off the skirts of the two women, to reveal four legs belonging to Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston, driving audiences from Andorra to Zagreb wild.
In 1981, #MeToo wasn’t a thing, up-skirting wasn’t a crime and off-skirting, far from being recognised as emblematic of patriarchal commodification of women’s bodies, helped Britain win Eurovision for the last but one time.
In 2021, by contrast, the ID parade ended when number two, the old duffer who wasn’t in Bucks Fizz, whipped off his own trousers thereby disclosing that he was the impostor. Nice touch, but this shouldn’t imply the patriarchy is over. Rather, women have punched through Buzzcocks’ glass ceiling to find themselves covered with broken glass, guano and, if they have any sense, regret.