Ready for a laugh? Then let’s indulge in a look back at last week’s TV.
This week I have to say I’ve been struggling for new shows so have presented a mini comedy special even though I’ve only got three comedies to look at and it’s arguable that the first show, Sirens, isn’t really a comedy despite it mainly including comedy actors and was advertised as a comedy. Sirens is based around the blog and later the book by paramedic Tom Reynolds who wrote about his experiences during his work. As far as I can realise both were well received and some of the anecdotes were extremely eye-opening. Is fair that Sirens does present a different view of paramedics from those seen on Casualty, ER and the ilk these are the men who find it hard to switch off after a hard-hitting incident such as Rhys Thomas’ Stuart had massaged the heart of a woman in cardiac arrest and revived her. The three paramedics were told that they would go through post-traumatic stress which as Stuart simplified would see them go – up, horny, down. The problem is that the characters and the actors used aren’t very sympathetic or at least don’t portray the characters in which they should be done. For example Thomas is supposed to be the lead guy a sort of jack-the-lad who tries to keep his emotions in check but at the same time has to deliver the jokes he is given. For me Thomas isn’t really a convincing lead, even in a show like Sirens, compare him to say Andrew Lincoln in Teachers a similar sort of show he doesn’t have the same dominance or sympathy that you need for a role like this. Stuart’s colleagues are Richard Madden’s blokey but gay Ashley and Kayvan Novak’s dim rookie Rachid. Again these two characters did nothing for me which is a shame especially in Novak’s case as I loved him in Four Lions but they again were fairly cliched characters especially when they were trying to overcome the horny part of the disorder. The only character I would’ve liked to have seen more of was policewoman Maxine who was a friend of Stuart’s and had a story in which she didn’t feel feminine enough all I worry is that a will they-won’t they story between her and Stuart will spoil the character a bit. The script had some funny moments but it also had some incredibly tacky bits including Stuart trying to resist the temptations of a female gas meter reader which seemed like something from a 70s British sex comedy. Visually the thing was shot well the accident scenes look like they’d been lifted from an American medical drama but this was anything more than alright a very unbalanced show which didn’t seem to know if it was comedy or drama and the problem was that the actors really didn’t know either.
Treading the boards between comedy and drama this week was the latest series of Lead Balloon which went off track a little bit by presenting a two-hander between Jack Dee’s Rick Spleen and Robbie Coltrane playing a prisoner who had kidnapped him following one of Spleen’s comedy workshops. Lead Balloon does really rely on the fact that Spleen has a very high opinion of himself and his career than most of those do around him and he often stretches the truth to almost breaking point. So by putting him in a situation with a violent prisoner, albeit one played by Hagrid from Harry Potter, means that the comedy has to change slightly as there’s no kooky characters for Rick to play off or the realistic characters such as partner Mel and writer Marty to drag him down to Earth. Instead Coltrane’s Donald got to the route of Spleen’s issues by asking him some straightforward questions and demanding some answers again Spleen tries to lie at first about his marital status and his love of Robert Burns but soon Donald wises up and for the first time he has a frank discussion about his personal issues and how far this dates back. However by the end it seems Rick is back to his old ways lying during a press conference about how he escaped and even about the pizzas each man ordered. I feel this was brave for a show not just to do a two-hander bubble episode but also for one of the characters not to be a regular in the show. This came at the right time for Lead Balloon which I feel had been flagging a little even though the set pieces were still great – Rick choking during the Eucharist at a funeral for example the parts in between haven’t flowed as well and some of the minor characters, in particular cafe owner Michael, have become almost mean rather than patronising. I feel when a show does an episode such as this one it should be applauded and I feel that there is enough life in the Spleen character to give him another series but maybe seem him unwittingly propelled into the celebrity spotlight or even take part in a reality show because I think that would be fantastic.
Shows like Sirens and Lead Balloon do have the luxury of being post-watershed productions and therefore don’t have to worry too much about the content or the language. I feel though the market for pre-watershed comedies is lacking in Britain which is odd as most of the classic British sitcoms – Dad’s Army, Only Fools and Horses etc. was shown around this time. Shows like My Family, Life of Riley and the most recent pre-watershed offering In with the Flynns all struggle to gain critical acclaim and on the whole there’s a reason for that in that they’re not very well written. I did give In with the Flynns a hard time on its debut episode however since then I think it has got stronger and relied on every day issues – parents distrust of their children, boys stealing from the toy shops, teenage girls overthinking interactions with boys to create some good laughs albeit obvious ones on the most part. One thing it does have going for it is its cast while the young actors aren’t brilliant and certainly aren’t up to the standard of Outnumbered the adult cast certainly make up for it. Will Mellor and Nicky Wardly have great chemistry you can believe their relationship and the fact that they became parents too young and are still learning how to do it years on. Craig Parkinson add some dry wit as the layabout uncle and Warren Clarke is also fairly impressive as the curmudgeonly grandfather. It also doesn’t let its timeslot affect its themes for example one episode revolved around the fact that Mellor’s Liam lied about having a vasectomy and then having unprotected sex with his wife. Although it is a little clichéd it is also quick witted and very warm without ever lapsing into over-sentimentality or smugness the latter of the which has been the main issue I’ve had with In With the Flynns’ contemporaries at the end of the day its simple switch-your-brain-off fun and ideal for the time it is aired in the evening.
Someone who doesn’t have a very high opinion of comedy, and especially stand-up comedy, is one Katie Price better known to some of you as Jordan. Price’s is issue in particular is with several jokes that Frankie Boyle made on his Tramadol Nights programme late last year about her son Harvey who suffers from a mental illness which Boyle made light of. In Katie: Standing Up for Harvey she doesn’t do a stand-up set about Boyle’s family but instead interviews various people about the Boyle incident. Possibly my favourite part of the programme was her sit down chat with stand-up Olivia Lee who tried to get Ms. Price to grasp the concept of stand-up and in particular Boyle’s style and how he operates. Even though Lee put up a good case for stand-up comedy and the worries of censorship Price still didn’t understand and seemed much more at home when people were agreeing with her. Throughout the episode she made several attempts to contact Boyle but these were met with no avail and indeed since the programme has aired he’s made more gags about her at his gigs. My personal views on the whole situation would be that Boyle should stay away from making jokes about mentally disabled children whoever their parents are, sure make jokes about how ludicrous Katie is and her need to shine in the spotlight but certainly not when it involves her son. However the more shocking thing for me is that Katie has used this joke to get as many press interviews as possible complaining to Channel 4 about the joke which raises the censorship issue once again and personally I feel that Boyle, who hasn’t been funny since he left Mock the Week, has made worse jokes than the ones he did about Price and Harvey. Katie also wanted to demonstrate her strong bond with Harvey and took him to play with other children with similar learning disabilities she also wanted to show that Harvey did have some skills and indeed the drawings that he did throughout the show and those that featured in the closing credits were fairly impressive. However the amount of time Katie spent doing her interviews and the amount of time she spent with Harvey was unequal and I feel that she still seems to spend more time trying to keep the spotlight than she does with her son. What happens, for example, when she jets off to do I’m a Celebrity? or participate in the Oscars red carpet? Does Harvey get shipped off to some nanny or another member of the family? I’m not disputing that Katie doesn’t love her son she seems to be a devoted parent but not that devoted that her career doesn’t seem to come first. I’ve said this about Kerry Katona in the past if you really care about your children stop showing them on T.V. and instead concentrate on raising them rather than your own profile.
Finally I know it’s not a comedy but it does lapse into farce a lot, so we’ll end with a recap of this week’s Apprentice. While not a comic classic like last week’s French offering, Lord Sugar’s potential business partners this week had to create and brand biscuits. One team led by Zoe decided to go for a half and half chocolate/digestive combo and called it bixmix. There was problem’s from day one thanks to Melody who has gone from doing absolutely nothing for weeks to becoming quite a dominant and annoying figure as we trot towards the final. Conflict between Melody who hears what she wants when she wants and the straight-talking Zoe was the highlight of the episode with Zoe punching a phone that Melody was on the other end of. On the other team there was less conflict thanks to the most sensibile and winner of every task so far Helen taking on project manager duties and gelling well with Jedi Jim however she had to slap down the brattish Natasha a few times and the slogan ‘anytime is treat time’ didn’t fit with the brand however once again Jim’s pitch in which he assured ASDA that he could get promotion during Harry Potter films was enough to get them the win. From that point on Zoe was gone especially when she bought everybody’s favourite Tom into the boardroom along with Melody who Alan had praised the previous week. Zoe had been an entertaining character but this series overall has lacked a strong personality in the vein of a Stuart Baggs, Katie Hopkins or Raef. This may be because this year’s candidates are already business owners and don’t have strong personalities instead letting their business acumen shine through however this hasn’t happened just yet. Based on her work in the Paris task during the pitch Helen has to be the favourite and though he dipped a few weeks ago Jim is also looking strong. With poor posture and a bad attitude look for Natasha to be fired if she’s in the losing team however Suzie’s naivety, Tom’s poor performance and Melody’s short-sightedness may count against them. The best piece of news though is that Margaret Mountford is back for the interview stages and hopefully soon she’ll be back for good.
What did you think of this week’s programmes leave a comment below?
Next Week: Stolen, Dirty Pretty Things and Secrets of the Pop Song