Be Sarky To Each Other

By Louis Barfe

By now, I should be used to the fact that Radio 4 doesn’t have a watershed, but it’s still always the cause of a mild frisson to hear a rude word on Radio 4 before 9pm. So, hearing Joe Lycett say the word ‘prick’ in its profane context just before 7pm brought me up sharp, but as it was used in the service of a fairly decent bloke, I’m permitting it. The show in question was, It’s Not What You Know, the panel game (available on iPlayer) in which Lycett questions panellists on how well they know siblings, parents or partners.

It’s often said that there are no truly new ideas and that everything now is a variant on something that’s already been done. Depending on how old you are and what ITV region you were, you’ll associate this sort of format with either Alan Taylor or Derek Batey, because it’s basically a free-choice version of Mr and Mrs. Not that this is a problem. Mr and Mrs was a fascinating study, in its own way, and the basic idea remains valid. It’s Not What You Know, now in its fifth series, is played purely for laughs, and mostly it succeeds.

In Batey’s day, the Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent theme tune instructed us all to ‘be nice to each other’, but Lycett being a sarcastic so and so, there’s no chance of that. So it was that he asked Gyles Brandreth whether his actress daughter-in-law was using her acting skills most acutely when pretending to like him. I also guffawed when Lycett read what he claimed was an extract from his 1996 diary (when he was eight years old) for the benefit of his guest, erstwhile Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm: ‘My favourite members are Ginger and the little boy in the tracksuit.’