Sophie Willan

Sophie Willan

Nominated for the 2017 lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Award
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© Steve Ullathorne

The Tez O'Clock Show

TV review by Jay Richardson

From its opening sketch, in which Tez Ilyas portrays an aggrieved waiter, angrily correcting the assumption that he's Indian, The Tez O'Clock Show is mischievously playful with identity politics and pigeonholing.

But compared to previous attempts to emulate the US late-night model, such as The Mash Report and The Ten O'Clock Show, this bold, attitudinal show benefits greatly from immediately stamping this identity. It has a singular but not necessarily mainstream point-of-view, with the show a natural extension of its host's ebullient personality.

Ilyas's stand-up has always seemed a natural fit for a sharp suit and shiny floor, yet with enough edge and ambition beyond mere career advancement. Yet the assured mastery with which he delivered his opening monologue, so often the make-or-break aspect on which late-night hosts have been judged, was still a pleasant surprise. Whatever rough edges still existed elsewhere in this impressively polished opening episode, he passed this test with flying colours.

As a 'northern working-class British-Asian-Muslim', he's decidedly not the Establishment, his decade working as a civil servant notwithstanding. His own regular 'Home Office' of Sophie Willan and Adam Rowe equating all politicians with Old Etonians dealt in broad strokes. Yet while their pros and cons debate for politicians taking drugs was tongue-in-cheek, Willan's admission about her own mother's addiction added a bit of progressive grit and felt genuinely boundary pushing.

Moreover, with special guests John Bishop in the interview slot and Phil Ellis in the sketches, The Tez O'Clock Show is appealingly, unapologetically northern, with Willan taking a Sunday Times journalist to task for portraying anywhere beyond Watford as being a cross between a war zone and an episode of Coronation Street. Given Bishop's profile, it was refreshing to hear him so openly express his political views too, not least his disappointment in Jeremy Corbyn.

Best of all, though, was the easy chemistry between Ilyas and Sindhu Vee in the studio and the host and Guz Khan in the sketches. While Khan tends to dominate a camera, Vee is more subtly charismatic, at times supporting Ilyas in his more eye-popping rants but just as likely to feign annoyance with him, with the show leaning on their Pakistan-India divide but not overplaying it.  She verged on a disapproving maternal persona towards a teenager too-big-for-his-boots, but the show wisely gave her enough airtime to convey a more rounded personality.

Wading into the Brexit debate without getting bogged down in the personalities or over-familiar comic conceits, The Tez O'Clock Show also didn't simply presume the positions of its audience as The Mash Report is prone to do. 

On the writing staff, the likes of Amna Saleem, Sukh Ojla, Kae Kurd, Adam Hess and Daniel Audritt bring a relative youth to the table. And that, combined with seeing Vee, Rowe and Willan getting their shot in front of the camera, was extremely heartening, with the fruits of their labours an undeniably positive argument for new voices. 

Channel 4 is to be commended for this timely, ambitious commission and it would be a terrible waste if there aren't more episodes ordered beyond the next two.

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Published: 26 Jul 2019

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Sophie Willan: Novice Detective


Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Sophie Willan: On Record


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