An underseen gem, Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive features a spin on the fictional-reality comedy staple, presenting both sides of a derivative panel comedy show. The backstage segments give some genuine insight into how these shows area actually made, bolstered by a superb Brydon as a Partridgesque model of himself, given to fits of ego and basically perpetually miffed at the choice of guests he has to work with and the fact that the writing staff have little idea of who he is.
Where the show really succeeds is in presenting the segments of Annually Retentive (the show within the show), which is often as amusing as Buzzcocks, HIGNFY or any of the other thousand that dominate the BBC's weeknight schedules. The Brydon of the fictional show is a more-than-capable host, playing off his own mistakes and generally making the whole thing very believable. That his backstage character is so radically different is only testament to his skills as an actor, and considering he also wrote and directed most of the series its a shame he is rarely hailed as the comedy great he so obviously is.
The support comes from regulars Jane Moore and Dave Gorman, both as willing to send themselves up as any one of the many panel guests, many of whom are torn to pieces by Brydon in conversations with his very charming assistant, played by Sharon Horgan. While his impressions are uncanny, it is his scathing, jealous deconstruction of each of their styles that truly hits the mark, and many are so close to the bone you wonder how the stars agreed to let it be broadcast.
I look forward to seeing the second series, which is finally seeing release next month alongside the forthcoming standup DVD for Mr. Brydon, as Brydon's observation on the workings of standups and panel regulars (I'm looking at you, David Mitchell) is painfully funny and often cathartic in an odd, vicious way.