Bad Education Review: Young Whitehall Shows Promise
We’re constantly hearing about how fast kids grow up, but none do it faster than Jack Whitehall’s TV career. Just last year he was on the other side of the academic flip-chart, playing hapless toff student JP in Channel 4’s critically acclaimed comedy drama Fresh Meat. Now he’s playing teacher, in his new self-penned BBC3 sitcom Bad Education.
Whitehall’s severely hungover young teacher Alfie Wickers bursts through the school gates and straight into the nearest sink to throw-up and this pretty much sets for the tone for the next thirty minutes as his hilariously shambolic life and teaching methods unfold in a series of comedic vignettes. The first episode was entitled ‘Parent’s Evening’ and saw Alfie struggling to mark his class’s mock exam papers in time for the titular event as Deputy Head Miss Pickwell breathed skin-crawlingly down his neck.
Played by Michelle Gomez of Green Wing fame, Pickwell has a degree of venom not witnessed since Pam Ferris’ Miss Trunchbull in Matilda. Often speaking in bizarre and crude riddles “You’re skating on thin ice and that ice is cracking under the weight of my ginormous balls” and with a glare so cold it could fuse together pieces of steel, Gomez’s brilliant and dead straight performance causes much nervous laughter and seat-shuffling for the viewer.
What’s also refreshing about Bad Education is just how mature the pupils at Abbey Grove School are. This is a clever device which serves to highlight the stupidity of the teaching staff and it’s rounded off by Matthew Horne’s desperate lothario headmaster who can’t resist speaking in text-talk.
Add to the mix a selection of dubstep-heavy sound bridges and contemporary social references (Alfie’s whiteboard instructs his pupil’s to follow him on Twitter) and Bad Education feels hip, but without the awful smugness of Skins.
There was certainly pressure on Whitehall to deliver and with a backdrop as familiar as a secondary school there was a real chance that Bad Education would, like the students in Alfie’s class, fail. Fortunately, it’s a triumph with believable characters and just enough one-liners to ensure it remains pacey and laugh-out-loud funny. A very promising debut.