TV Review: Not Going Out Live, BBC One

Let's be honest, you watched the live edition of Not Going Out hoping that the scenery would fall on Lee Mack didn't you? Or at least that something memorable would go wrong. In fact it nearly all went absolutely right. The only fluffed line seemed to be from Lucy (Sally Bretton) at the start – assuming it was an accident – and even then Lee Mack showed how quick his wits are by making a rapid response joke about it.

While this Christmas special episode, Ding Dong Merrily On Live, didn't tinker with the television format quite as daringly as this year's live Inside No 9, Mack and co certainly rose to the challenge, doing difficult things that they wouldn't necessarily even do in a recorded episode.

The knowing conceit, alongside lots of knowing lines, was that they had to take part in a live variety show. And when the juggler booked for the occasion was indisposed, who should step in and keep all the balls in the air? Either they can do wonders with CGI these days or Mack really is a rather impressive juggler.

But then live television is all about keeping all the balls in the air. You can't walk into the scenery, you can't ask for a prompt or pause and have your make-up touched up, you've just got to keep pushing through. And in this episode everyone chipped in. While Mack was the star it was very much a team effort, with Hugh Dennis and  Abigail Cruttenden indulging in some fast-paced Tom Lehrer wordplay and Bretton having knives thrown at her by Mack.

It's probably no surprise that the comedian was so good. Stand-ups have to be fast on their feet and not think about nerves. But he excelled himself. I've always felt that he doesn't really stretch himself in Not Going Out and basically plays a variant of his affably irritable stage persona in the series. This has certainly never been a sitcom that goes for naturalism. But he pulled out all the stops on this occasion. The episode was so good you might even have thought it was, erm, pre-recorded.

Watch on iPlayer here.

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