“For series two we’ve tweaked the format and I’m pleased to say it’s thinner than ever,” the comedian said of the show’s return. And judging by episode one, he’s not wrong.
For the uninitiated, the show’s (bafflingly loose) premise is to welcome a celebrity panel and decide what fun stuff should be put into a box to prove – in case of alien invasion – that humans are actually sort of OK. In that sense it’s a bit like a reverse Room 101.
In all other senses this isn’t like anything else on TV. There aren’t rounds per se, the celeb guests don’t actually suggest anything to put in the ‘fun capsule’ at all and there’s a green arm puppet thing called Alan the Alien. It’s weird, madcap and barely makes any sense. Basically, it’s very Harry Hill.
“Yes, I was as surprised as you when I heard it was coming back,” says Harry, opening this new episode. “I was that close to booking a tour.” It’s clear he’s not entirely joking.
Last year’s first series aired at 8:30pm on Thursdays, but now ITV have been bold by not only commissioning a series two, but bumping it up to primetime Saturday nights. It puts Harry back in the slot which gave him widespread success.
Still sorely missed, TV Burp was a genuine television phenomenon. It ran for 11 years and featured a zany look back at the week’s TV, from the must-watch to the mundane and everything in between.
Alien Fun Capsule is certainly not a replacement, but the aesthetic and ethos of the show is relatively similar. Instead of recapping telly, celebrities essentially have their careers looked back at via dredged up and largely unflattering clips and the finale often involves an all-singing, all-dancing reenactment from one of their lives. Which can get rather… strange. It’s impossible to explain what’s going on in this picture, so I’m not going to try.
Coronation Street star Sally Dynevor and comedian Micky Flanagan get off entirely scot-free (in fact, they might as well not have turned up) this week, but TV presenter Anneka Rice and in particular Robert Peston are left visibly squirming. There are some surprisingly acerbic moments in which the former BBC Political Editor is jibed on the gender pay gap and, of course, his distinctive presenting style.
Not all of the segments land and it’s certainly not going to be for everyone. It’s thoroughly Marmite TV; viewers will either embrace the lunacy, think it’s hilarious and get right on board – or jump straight off and immediately take to Twitter denouncing “what the hell is this rubbish?”. To be fair, both sides have a point.
But what Alien Fun Capsule does is bring deliciously eccentric, irreverent, anarchic humour to the mainstream. And that’s something TV definitely needs more of.
Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule airs Saturdays at 7:30pm on ITV