Non-comedian guests deliver some golden moments on Jaquie Brown's otherwise lacklustre new game show, writes Alex Casey.

TV One's comedy panel show Word Up promises to "blend laughs and outrageous antics with genuine information and trivia" but delivers, as my own father succinctly put it, "What Now for adults".

Plucking an arbitrary word and dragging it kicking and screaming through a series of inane games, a panel of comedians and special guests compete to achieve ... something.

Unlike the cutting current affairs takedown of 7 Days, or the YouTube-in-the-small-hours-of-a party vibe of Best Bits, Word Up suffers the most from a crippling lack of relevance. Without timely, topical subject matter each week, the laughs are to be clawed out from one-liners around one-syllable words such as "hand" or "wind".

It's a very tall task for the panellists, who range from comedians to actors to celebrity nail artists. In one episode, Steve Wrigley digs at X Factor, "you can make a killing on that show". It's one of the better jokes of the episode, it's just a shame that it would have been a lot funnier about four months ago.


Where other panel formats have recognisable and replicable games, Word Up shambolically caters rounds to each word. During "hand" week, teams played a game called "It was in my hand a second ago". Presented with a Photoshopped image missing one crucial element, pairs had to guess what a woman was holding.

"She's fondling the back of the head of her dwarf lover," says Jesse Mulligan. "Just your standard affair with a midget." I'm not sure midget is the choice terminology for a show so fixated on the importance of words. This episode in particular promised to "slap the comedy out of the word hand", and the slaps got very painful. As they churn through the games, none of the panellists seems to know what is going on.

Wrigley's commentary adds a much needed level of self-awareness to the inanity of the format. "Hold on - what is this game we're playing?!" he yells after a ropey audio round involving a metal door slamming. In another instance he kicks back and says, "I'm prepared to put as much effort into this weather presentation as Jaquie put into making this map." The map in question was terrible, featuring cut-out countries glued on to a whiteboard, magnetic clouds and a very questionable spelling of Los Angeles. Like many of the games, the props would be better suited to a primary school classroom.

TV presenter and all round funny lady Jaquie Brown swings by the studio for an intimate chat with Anika Moa.

Ironically, some of the most golden moments have come from the non-comedian guests. Shoehorned in on some tangential relation to the word of the day, the likes of cricketer Chris Harris, surfer Ella Williams and tornado-hunter Aaron Wilkinson have brought a sliver of reality to the contrived loopiness of the show.

Chris Harris fixates on how Steve Wrigley is wearing the same shirt as him, but in different colours. Ella Williams talks sincerely about how she feels sorry for eating salmon after spending so much time with them in the sea. Wind expert Aaron Wilkinson appears to know nothing about wind.

As host, Jaquie Brown almost single-handedly keeps the show afloat, undercutting rambling answers and plastering on a big pixie grin when the going gets tough. She asserts herself over rogue panellists with ease, her biting quips with Wrigley are a welcome mainstay in a sea of rambling interactions.

During one game, a throwback clip of Robyn Malcolm invited some unwarranted body-shaming from David Fane. Luckily, Jaquie picked up on this and quickly punished him by taking away points.

Unluckily it still made the final cut of the show and, as another famous host once uttered, everything's made up and the points don't matter.

* What do you think of Word Up? Post your comments below.