Released on the BBC3 and iPlayer websites as a series of pilot shows, the BBC Comedy Feeds are, most would agree, a worthy enterprise. The Office, the last truly great British comedy, is long gone. The Inbetweeners has finished, Peep Show is on its last legs and The Thick of It is all but dead. It’s about time there was another British comedy show worthy of the name. The shows are certainly a mixed bag, but there are four very good reasons to be hopeful for the future.
Kerry – One Star
The sketch shows are only 15 minutes each, and in Kerry this proves to be very problematic. Star Kerry Howard plays four characters, and each appears three or four times, meaning not only that the set-ups are tediously predictable, but that each character manages to outstay its welcome. As they rely on the same punchlines, the sketches – for example, a perfectionist who goes on a destructive rampage at the slightest criticism – have an easily foreseeable shelf life. A series of such characters would be nigh-on tortuous.
The Committee Meeting – Two Stars
It’s filmed with a live audience, who are ostensibly members of the committee, chaired by Mr Chairman (Elis James), helped by his number two, health-and-safety conscious Rex (Chris Corcoran). The two chat, and after a while another local character or two arrives, and later a celebrity guest who they interview in character (a rather bemused Colin Baker). The atmosphere is very genial, and you could be quite content watching it for half an hour before realising that it hasn’t once inspired in you any greater reaction than a wry smile or two.
Nick Helm’s Heavy Entertainment – Two Stars
Nick Helm’s show is glorified stand-up: half an hour of mildly amusing jokes, one mildly amusing sketch, and three terrible songs. He has a winning dedication, and would doubtless win over a small comedy club, but I’m unsure why anyone thought his act would make for a good TV show.
Going Native – Two Stars
A hidden-camera show featuring Mona Yousefi, who plays three separate immigrants to the UK. Though the format works very well when it shows up British assumptions about other cultures (an elderly couple happily watch Yousefi rattle off an impressive number of euphemisms for ‘vagina’ without comment) it is spoiled by the scenes of childishly annoying people, such as playing up on community service with a clearly exasperated cleaner. Also, some of it borders on racism, particularly the “Japanese Youtube sensation”, who introduces herself to everyone with a shrill cry of “Herro prease!”.
The Cariad Show – Three Stars
Though far from perfect, this show from Cariad Lloyd demonstrates that sketch comedy need not be a series of trudges to the same destination. The best sketches are characterised by touches of lovely originality; rival French parkour teams picnic together in playgrounds, and the impossibly sweet fantasy girl who plagues lonely men has cupcakes inexplicably falling from her hair. There is a creative silliness to the show, which suggests that a series would have many such moments.
Fuzzbox – Three Stars
The script is disappointingly light on jokes, but Fuzzbox should be celebrated for its originality; it is set in a high school and uses puppets, with real teenagers providing the voices. This may seem unnecessarily gimmicky, but in fact adds a surprising realism to the conversations and the relationships, which feel immediately real. The only problem is the teenagers’ constant mumbling which often makes it quite difficult to follow.
Bamboo – Four Stars
Comedy duo Totally Tom (Tom Stourton and Tom Palmer) play two friends who open a nightclub, and they’re a send up of the oblivious, “Gap Yah-style” rich young man. Though the trailer describes them as “two douchebags united by a common dream”, the show works because their naïve idiocy makes them pretty lovable; they get a Buddha statue for luck because they think he’s the Prime Minister of Thailand. Their relationship drives the show, and the actors’ devotion to silly, over-the-top performances makes for a very watchable half hour.
C-Box – Four Stars
Rob Madin stars as Charlie, or “C-Bomb”, the “dubstep Da Vinci” unrecognised outside of his Sheffield suburb. Charlie is a great character; he lives with his mum, but he calls her by her first name and quickly corrects himself when he slips up in company. He’s brilliantly played, Madin giving him the perfect mix of impotence, bravado and honesty to make him instantly likeable. The stand-out moment is when, losing an argument, he fantasises about performing a dubstep hit that says exactly what he wants to say, but can’t. Charlie is a classic sitcom sap, and C-Bomb could be a sitcom with real legs.
This year’s BBC Comedy Feeds are available to watch here.