9
Jul 09

Good Poo TV

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I’ve been watching British TV this week. I don’t usually do that. I’m not normally in, but I have been pleasantly surprised with nearly all of the new shows that have popped up (especially Gettimg On). It strikes me that early July seems an odd time to release all your good TV shows at once, but there is no accounting for TV scheduling.

It started with the new BBC1-i-fication of Torchwood which seems to have a bigger explosion budget. Now down to a more manageable three person team, with some proper plotting, its first couple of episodes were genuinely exciting and clever and even spooky. It still suffers from too much incidental music, and the Captain Jack problem* (though dodges it in ep 2) and will almost certainly implode like most Russell T.Davies BIG STORIES. But three fifths in its still quite good (though a bit heavy on the sound effects mixing as well). And good turns from the baddies, and the “are-they-baddies” – especially man of the year Peter Capaldi.

Man of the year? Well launched last night with absolutely no fanfare was Getting On, a three part comedy set in a hospital ward. Capaldi directs it with verisimilitude of The Thick Of It, and much of the dark humour, though considerably less cynicism, which is remarkable for a show where nurses patronise, steal from and half ignore their patients. And yet, the show suggests, this is partially due to the current climate in the NHS, and partially human nature. When Jo Brand’s nurse Kim Wilde asks if she can take a dead patients half finished bag of Starburst it is at once mercenary and completely understandable. All set in the ward, it must have cost about tuppence to make – which make the three episode run seem particularly parsimonious. Ity is all terrific, cleverly, subtly played by its three leads Vivki Pepperdine (the smug Doctor) Joanne Scanlon (the busy officious ward sister) and Jo Brand (the nurse returning to work after kids) who also wrote the thing. And yes, Jo Brand is very good in it, as is a cast against type Ricky Grover as the new Matron. And yes, the first show main jokes revolve around poo, and there is a mistaken sex joke with the Matron. And yet these second hand bits of business seem fresh, along side some very clever jokes on linguistics and euthanasia. Give it a go, even if you hate Jo Brand: http://bbc.co.uk/i/llg8k/

More Poo? Well Charlie Brooker’s quick return to TV after his neck incident was billed as a cheap’n’cheerful TV quiz type thing on Channel 4, You Have Been Watching. And its certainly got a cheap set, and a cheap as chip studio audience. But oddly giving Brooker peopel to have a bit of a conversation with, like our old mate Rufus Hound, and Jamelia, brings out his sweet side. Which then sets his scabrous side into nice relief. This should have been pretty shit, but instead used the inside info of its guests well. It also pretty much retained the best bits of Screenwipe, namely the mile a minute rants about TV shows, and frankly when the One Show is getting it in the neck its not hard to laugh. But rather than settle for a few cheap gags the inner workings of TV were dismantled while Jamelia got to say Poo in the style of a One Show link. If there is this much original research and work put into every episode, it’ll be appointment TV (tm Magnus).

Which only leaves Taking The Flak, the BBC2 foreign correspondent comedy which for some bizarre reason
was an hour long and fluffed its USP in the first couple of minutes. Filmed in Kenya (sitting in for Madeupinafrica) there is a to camera piece from a young news journalist pleased that the country he covers is now in a war. Out gets sent Martin Jarvis as John Seargent and Doon McKinchion to steal his thunder, and loads of cameos of BBC News celebs. It wants to be Drop The Dead Donkey, but it isn’t – because it is in cahoots with BBC News. They can’t have it both ways, be cynical about the process and then work with the people who they are satirising. I turned off after ten minutes, before the worst poo joke of the week apparently started. PEOPLE IN AFRICA GET DIHIORREA. Which as the Doctor in Getting On would tell you, is seven on the Bristol Stool Scale.

*OK, this is not the main Captain Jack problem. That is being a kids TV character stuck in a adult TV role.

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