8 Out of 10 Cats: Claws Out Review
8 Out of 10 Cats is, essentially, cheap and easy TV. A weekly panel game show it shares much with obvious precursor Have I Got News for You, not to mention the likes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI: comedians and “celebrities” (soap stars, Big Brother contestants, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson types) make a bunch of gags over 26 minutes or so. The theme, as it were, is opinion polls, both topical and the more offbeat, though the overall tone is less satirical than that found in Have I Got News For You. As such, it is incredibly disposable – pre- or post-pub entertainment depending on your disposition of the kind you’ll never bemoan missing an episode. Yet, by the same token, it’s also generally agreeable; not only is this television which is seemingly easy to produce, it is very much television which is easy to watch.
With such a flimsy set-up the entertainment value is mostly dependent on the week’s particular guests. Much as you’d expect there’s far more comic mileage to be had from a Vic Reeves or a Johnny Vegas than there is some anonymous Big Brother evictee who’d managed four weeks in the spotlight. The mainstays, from the clips presented here, are host Jimmy Carr and team captains Dave Spikey and Sean Locke. For the most part their selection is surprisingly shrewd. Carr and Spikey are both joke-based comedians who work far better in this small-scale format than they do in an hour-plus stand-up environment, even if this remains their “natural” environment. (My thoughts on Spikey were expressed when discussing his Living the Dream DVD for this site.) They tend not to go for the narrative-type humour favoured by Eddie Izzard, say, and there’s certainly none of the political dimension found in Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor or Bill Hicks. Rather it’s pithy one-liners and as such they’re perfectly at home here. As for Locke, his presence generally pleases owing to the fact he’s never achieved the ubiquity that has blighted, say, Carr’s public perception. He may be a long way from his earlier experimental film collaborations with Andrew Kötting, but he’s a sharp wit and, on the whole, proves to be the funniest of the trio.
This particular disc – the Claws Out of the title is merely a rubbish pun as opposed to any kind of hidden insight into malicious bitchery or in-fighting – provides a ‘best of’ compilation from the series up until this disc’s release (now almost two years ago). It can be viewed in either three parts (each roughly mirroring the structure of an episode proper) or as a single 96-minute whole – either way there’s a selection of “unedited” and “unseen” moments, which largely amounts to more swearing, alongside the previously televised footage. The disc also features 21-minutes worth of further unseen outtakes to further entice the public at large. It all remains just as disposable in an amaray case as it did on television, plus the topicality during week of original broadcast has effectively dated both the humour and the disc itself. Are we still going to laugh at some Big Brother gag a few years down the line? Or remember some detail from Michael Jackson’s legal proceedings so chucklesome as it did a few days after the fact? There are enough moments of comedic weirdness – ladders to the moon or ladybirds and PIN numbers – to balance out these instances but nonetheless you do wonder where the repeat factor resides.
On the whole, the disc looks as good as original TV broadcast. There’s some slight edge enhancement on display, but otherwise the colours pop just as they did during broadcast and we get an anamorphically enhanced transfer of the original 1.78:1 ratio. The soundtrack, in DD2.0, understandably has little to cope with and so handles all the chatter ably, though optional English subtitles do not figure. As for the extras, here we find 21-minutes, as said, of previously unseen footage, much of which would easily have fitted into the “main feature” proper.