This is the first episode of another brilliant comedy to make its merry way from Radio 4 to TV. It’s one I loved on the radio, and it makes the transition to telly incredibly well. Plenty of awkward, embarrassed silences and random but plausible strangeness.
You might recognise Tim Key and Tom Basden (or rather, their voices) from Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better on Radio 4 last year. Together with Lloyd Woolf and Stefan Golaszewsk, they are the Cowards.
The once yawning gap between the peerless silliness of Reeves and Mortimer and their obvious antecedents Morecambe and Wise is closing fast: the first episode of Shooting Stars went out fifteen years ago, which is nearly half as long ago as the 28-million viewer everest of the 1977 Christmas Show (if you get a move on you might still catch Paul Merton’s excellent tribute to M&W here). And in those fifteen years they’ve got closer in other ways too.
Even this brand new show—which preserves the format of the original unchanged—now seems as innocent as an Ernie Wise play—in comparison, I suppose, to the rest of contemporary TV comedy—which needs to be ‘edgier’. In this rather melancholy documentary about Shooting Stars it’s clear that the BBC executives who commissioned the show back then really did hope they were investing in the new Eric and Ernie. It didn’t really work out – they’re still a minority taste (and half the population will never sit down to watch the same show ever again). I wonder if it still could.
Brooker takes a week off from putting the boot into TV inanity to interview five top TV writers—the writers of shows like Doctor Who, Shameless, Hustle, The IT Crowd and Peep Show—about writing. How they got into it, how they get going in the morning, how they come up with characters and names and so on.
Brooker’s respectful—even humble—with the writers and, in turn, they’re frank and disarmingly modest about the process: about the endless cups of tea and the fear and the drudgery of the first draft but also about the elation of seeing the finished product and the compulsion to write.
It’s really inspiring TV and, for anyone who’s ever attempted to write anything (and that’s, like, everyone now, right?), it’s really encouraging and of genuine practical use. I know for certain that professors of creative writing everywhere will be pirating this wholesale so they can put the video on and nip out for a smoke without feeling guilty. Absolutely superb TV.
I don’t agree with Rod Liddle about much but his views of the the first series of Outnumbered
“An exquisitely middle-class, middle-aged domestic situation comedy set in north London – maybe Crouch End or Tufnell Park – and starring one of those bloody stand-up comics who now festoons every network, it really should be hated before it is even seen…but Outnumbered is very funny indeed: despite its current bout of self-flagellation, the BBC still knows how to make people laugh”
pretty much nails it. Just look at the screen grab above for confirmation of the former.
The set up for this episode which is about parents struggling with the outcomes of banning their kids from using the TV and computers on a Sunday. “Spongebob is educational because it tells you how to make crabby patties and what goes on under the seas” pleads the youngest daughter when its taken away wasn’t far off my ludicrous attempts to impose a weekday Wii ban. I mean what’s the bloody point ?
The kids especially Daniel Roche who plays 8 year old Ben are astonishing, I can’t quite bring myself to take my eyes of Clare Skinner (Life is Sweet scarred me for life), and incredibly you might even warm to the sympathetic portrait of a confused 40something parent by Hugh “Now Show” Dennis.
Best sitcom of the year, alongside the underrated The Cup and Gavin and Stacey of course.
* This is one of those “stacked” series on iPlayer so if you’ve missed em you can go back and watch episodes 1 and 2 as they’re available longer than just yer 7 days.
Controversy? What controversy?
Simon Amstell, the cheeky-faced tousle-haired youth who chairs Never Mind the Buzzcocks recently appeared on Russell Brand’s last radio programme where he seemed to enjoy baiting the Daily Mail. Who would have guessed he’d have felt nervous after that? Despite playing at being extra careful here, he is as dry and funny as ever.
A welcome return to the screen for Alexi Sayle too.
Look, I probably ought to put up something about Credit Default Swaps or LIBOR or something but, honestly, I just can’t. So—by way of light relief—here’s this week’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Laugh? You’ll probably find yourself unwinding your long-term leverage or increasing your tier 1 capital. Sarcastic grammar school charmer Simon Amstell is outstanding: a major primetime find for BBC2. He’ll be presenting Newsnight before the year is out. Guest captain Stephen Fry is clueless and magnificent. Jupitus weary and witty. I laughed like a drain—like an accelerating market collapse in fact. The funniest thing on the telly this week by about 85 basis points or $700B, whichever is the greater…
The CBBC comedy series, Sorry, I’ve Got No Head is almost at the end of its first series so catch it while you can. It’s become the highlight of our telly week. Seeing as most adult comedy isn’t funny these days, it’s okay to watch the kids’ stuff. This has a great cast, with a couple of familiar names (Mel Giedroyc and Marcus Brigstocke) and some familiar faces (James Bachman, Will Andrews, Anna Crilly) as seen in other quality comedy shows like Little Britain and Lead Balloon. It doesn’t try to do anything clever, thank heavens. It’s just fun and funny. The North Barrasay School for the Gifted is a particular highlight.
In long summer days when good telly is thin on the ground Hedz is a great pick-me-up. It gently takes the piss out of celebrities through daft sketches where they have giant cardboard cut-outs for faces (in the style of Reeves & Mortimer’s George Michael). It’s on CBBC so is for kids really, but that doesn’t stop it being fun for grown-ups too. It’s sharp enough to be on the mark without being cruel and is a damn site funnier than most satirical shows aimed at adults. It’s just really, really stupid most of the time, which is why it’s so brilliant.
We don’t get much Australian TV on the beeb do we? I was pleased to bump into this ABC comedy ‘Summer Heights High‘ on iPlayer. It’s a slightly dark, slightly edgy, very funny mockumentary. Here’s episode two.
Episode one is still up, so you can start there, but you’ll have to be very quick.