When a TV show has been around long enough to become truly iconic, you can bet your sweet special subject that comedic takes are sure to be in abundance. Down under, on Fast Forward, we had Michael Veitch’s pollie-skewering version of Mastermind (sadly nowhere to be found online these days), but it was the UK that really spun gold from quiz-show straw.
As we await the premiere of Mastermind on SBS this month, let's explore some of the best:
The Two Ronnies leveraged their talent for wordplay
Many of their sketches rewarded repeat viewing for the speedy back’n’forth between them, and Messrs Barker and Corbett’s Mastermind parody is no exception. Here, Corbett plays a man whose special subject is answering the question before last. Which, of course, leads of lots of great gags (although you’ll probably find it funnier if your special subject is “British cultural references from 1980”).
Morecambe and Wise got the experts in
Once again we see the possibilities that come from the spare format – a questioner, an on-screen score and a black chair. Traditional double act Eric and Ernie do their usual bit, aggravated straight man and blasé rule-bender funnyman, with the assistance of… is that actually Magnus Magnusson? Pass.
Ben Elton and Chris Barrie parodied politics
This isn’t going to be the greatest thigh-slapper in the bunch, mainly because we’re no longer living in the (same) sort of declining Britain that Ben Elton loved to rant on about back in 1994. However, it’s worth watching not only for a hit of nostalgia, but because the actual craft of skewering a government minister through interrogation is timeless. Worth noting as well, the minister being sent up here is none other than SBS' own Michael Portillo before he discovered the joys of railways. Plus, the voice of Chris Barrie!
Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse went totally stupid
Sometimes the funniest bits of comedy are the most obvious, and that’s definitely the case with Harry and Paul’s latter-day sketch. Harry’s character’s special subject is the works of J.K. Rowling, and Paul’s character’s is… well, you’ll see.
BONUS: “Disastermind” showed that the actual show could be hilarious
Part of watching quiz shows is that feeling of smug superiority that comes from being smarter than the poor buggers sweltering under the studio lights. TV Hell’s“Disastermind”, from 1992, is a 10-minute post mortem from actual contestants who crashed worse than the Hindenburg once they hit the black chair.
Let's hope our new batch of contenders fare better when Mastermind season 3 premieres on SBS Australia, 6pm weeknights from Monday 22 February.