I must admit from the outset that I am not a fan of BBC Three. Yes it may have produced some hits such as Russell Howard’s Good News, Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh, but this was also the channel that gave use shows like Snog, Marry, Avoid and kept recommissioning Two Pints of Lager and Packet of Crisps over and over for no fathomable reason. I thus always approach the channel with caution.
However, maybe Josh will fit into the former group of shows. It does feature a pretty impressive cast for starters with Josh Widdicombe in the lead, as a man who suffers one crisis to the next while sharing a flat with his friends Owen (Elis James) and Kate (Beattie Edmondson), and being frequently interrupted by their landlord Geoff (Jack Dee). It also has a good behind-the-scenes team too, with director David Schneider, more famous in front of the camera in shows such as I’m Alan Partridge, and producer Simon Mayhew-Archer, more famous for his work in radio comedy.
In the opening episode Josh and Owen are invited to a pool party. However, Josh refuses to go because he cannot swim (partly due to his allergy to chlorine). Things change however when he accidentally gets an email revealing that an attractive old friend at university seems to have an interest in him. He thus decides to go, but not before Geoff tries to teach him to swim using nothing but an ironing board and latex socks. Meanwhile Kate’s latest date ends badly because of her terrible kissing, so Owen helps to improve the technique of the woman commonly nicknamed “The Nibbler”.
It has already been said by some critics that Josh lacks innovation, and that it does not do anything new with the sitcom format. It a shame that such criticism has been dished out towards it already because there are plenty of funny moments in the show, whether it be Kate reading out an entire list of unflattering kiss-based nicknames, or Geoff going over the top with his demonstration of various swimming strokes, which was personally speaking I think the funniest moment in show, partly due to Dee’s performance and also because of Widdicombe’s reaction to it.
I feel that Josh is certainly worth sticking around for to see where it will go next, but I do see one problem on the horizon, and it is a big one. It is nothing to do with the quality of Josh but it is more a victim of poor scheduling, as next week it goes head-to-head with Channel 4’s critically acclaimed Toast of London. Sadly it is hard to see Josh coming out on top in terms of viewing figures or reviews when compared to it.
Josh is on at 22.30 every Wednesday. Episodes can also be viewed on BBC iPlayer.
Huzzah! The best British sitcom of the last ten years is back on our screens at last, for its ninth and final series. When we last saw Mark and Jez (David Mitchell and Robert Webb), they were beating each other with sticks and rocks in a battle over Isy Suttie’s Dobby, before she ran off to New York.
Episode 1 sees the pair meeting up again for the first time, 6 months on from that fateful picnic in the Quantocks. The occasion is Super Hans’ stag-do, and the two are eagerly anticipating an evening of degeneracy. But this is a new, juicing, detoxing, ‘micro-nutrient’ obsessed ‘Sober Hans’. Can our heroes tempt him back to his old, wicked ways? Perhaps a small lager, just to ‘wet the whistle’ will do the trick….
The 6 months have seen Mark and Jeremy’s lives drift far apart, with Mark ostensibly successful and happy with his new job at a bank, and new flatmate Jerry (Tim Key), a bookish intellectual with a penchant for 19th century textile king William Morris. Meanwhile, Jeremy is…well, he’s sleeping in the bath at the flat of Hans and his new fiancée Molly (Franc Ashman) .
But if there’s one thing that Jez does understand, it’s his erstwhile flatmate. And soon enough, ‘the Aldi detective with a CBBC magnifying glass’, as Mark dubs him, begins to expose the cracks in Mark’s façade, and sets about reclaiming his place as the rightful second tenant of 5 Apollo House.
Fan favourite Johnson (Paterson Joseph) makes a brief appearance and delivers a classically impenetrable metaphor about a sausage dog – it’s good to see him back. Matt King is great as Super Hans, and his early scenes, in his still-clean phase, offer some of the biggest laughs.
Overall, there’s nothing too new in this series opener, and by the end of the episode (spoiler alert!) it looks like things are going to be pretty much back to normal for the El Dude brothers as Jeremy moves back in. Peep Show is back, and it’s just the same as ever– but then why would we want it to change? As Johnson, would say, ‘it feels just like slipping on an old pair of jeans’.
Peep Show is on Channel 4 on Wednesdays at 10pm. Episodes can also be watched on All4.
The old laboratory is intriguing enough to hold attention in the early stages of episode 3.
However, the constant restating of the questions facing the main character are tiresome: ‘Why am I this way?!’ ‘I need to find my family, my real family!’ Clichés are unavoidable with such a well-trodden subject matter but they’re popping up a little too often to be homage. Like Jekyll’s aged assistant constantly recommending that Jekyll ‘walk away’.
Tom Bateman is acting the hell out of the role but it’s not a particularly interesting character so far. It all makes you want to cringe; overly earnest and not self-aware enough for an appropriated tale.
It’s certainly diverse: supernatural elements, action scenes, stiff romances, secret service plots and intrigue. But none of it feels fresh; you can see the twists and turns of the plot coming a mile away. So much so that they’re less ‘twists’ than lazy rolls and not so much ‘turns’ as stumbles in a familiar direction.
The original Jekyll and Hyde is clearly solid material and worthy of an adaptation, I just don’t think it should have been this one.
This week’s episode of QI fell into the category of their “general” shows. The ones with no central theme or topic, but instead is a random assortment of interesting material focusing on the letter of the series.
This time Welsh comedians Cariad Lloyd and Rhod Gilbert, along with the surreal Noel Fielding, joined Stephen Fry and Alan Davies to talk on subjects including the most dangerous children’s science kit ever sold (complete with polonium); how the brown-headed cowbird makes you an offer you cannot refuse; how moss nearly destroyed the world 470 million years ago; and why Australian scientists like to use alcohol to pump up a moth’s penis.
The most impressive member of the panel was Cariad, mainly in a section about “bicycle face”, a sexist belief in Victorian times that women who rode bicycles would end up with stressed-out faces. This led Cariad to talk about something which shocked the men on the panel: the clitoris. Thus much of the show was devoted to what one 19th century Frenchman referred to as the “female organs of matrimonial necessity”. Most of the humour was coming from the fact that the guys were shocked about what she was talking about. One wonders how this will change when Sandi Toksvig takes over next year.
Other highlights included the discussion on lead ponchos, how the world’s rarest moss can be found in Derbyshire, and why the people of Madagascar like to party with their dead, in a ceremony you won’t find in any animated children’s film anytime soon. Overall, a fairly decent episode.
Musical theatre is alive and well, and continues to be a thriving business in London’s West End. A highlight of musical theatre in London recently has been The Rocky Horror Show at the Playhouse Theatre, showing throughout September. One of these performances was broadcast to 600 cinemas across the UK and Europe, and pulled in £600,000 at the box office in aid of Amnesty International. On Halloween 2015, this performance was shown on TV.
Originally written as a stage musical, The Rocky Horror Show premiered in 1973, and was adapted into a film in 1975 – The Rocky Horror Picture Show – starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. Now seen as a cult classic, the camp performances and the catchy tunes are recognisable to many generations of film fans.
On stage, with David Bedella as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Haley Flaherty as Janet and Ben Forster as Brad, these actors manage to bring the same sparkle to their roles as the film actors did all those years ago. The music is catchy, the cast have strong singing voices, and they rival each other for the most ‘hammy acting performance’ on show.
In terms of being transmitted from a live performance, which leaves it open to possible technical faults, the sound is perfectly clear, and the camera movements follow the action smoothly, without overbearing the actors. This unique performance also has several guest appearances, from Stephen Fry, Ade Edmondson, Emma Bunton, Mel Giedroyc, Anthony Head and writer Richard O’Brien, who rightly receives the biggest applause when he appears on stage.
There is only one thing which slightly removes you from the theatre action as you watch; The Rules. It appears that there are a set of rules which Rocky Horror fans follow when watching a performance. This includes shouting out during certain lines, including ‘Arsehole’ when Brad first appears, and ‘Slut’ to Janet. When you are in the theatre and can hear the audience, these remarks are part of the fun. The actors are prepared for as much to happen; being ready to leave gaps and respond appropriately. However, when watching from home, you cannot hear the audience remarks, but you can hear the witty responses from the cast. Unfortunately, it does become tiresome to hear only half the joke. This is the only issue with an otherwise flawless production.
Even in 2015, 40 years after the film’s release, the story, characters and music still hold the same unique appeal. If you enjoyed the film, or are a fan of theatre musicals, then this will not fail to disappoint. There is nothing quite like The Rocky Horror Show, and finally we have the chance to experience it in the comfort of our own homes.
There’s something about the crudeness of the C4 comedy series Catastrophe that is insanely addictive. The storyline? There’s nothing new in this, we’ve seen it in countless romcoms/sitcoms and soaps – young couple hook up, get pregnant, get hitched and have up-down relationship with unhelpful contribution from in-laws … yawn … roll the credits and quirky theme tune.
Catastrophe, though, is different. Its situations and dialogue are as sharp as a mouthful of Tangfastics; you’ll screw your face up for sure; you won’t entirely be sure you’re enjoying it, but once you’ve savoured its unique mix of sugary humour and acerbic one-liners, you’ll willingly go back for more.
The show is a brutally honest examination of modern relationships, sex, careers and superficial lifestyles and its first run was one of the unexpected hits of 2014.
Executives at Avalon, the production company behind Not Going Out, will be happily clinking champagne glasses at the success of the show. Having won universal praise from UK critics, the show was equally well received by US audiences on Amazon Prime – so much so that the VOD platform has bought the second season (prompting C4 to broadcast earlier than the scheduled New Year spot they had planned).
The second season has found the dysfunctional child-ensnared couple of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney in fine form dragging gutter humour up to a new level with pithily observed banter and some brilliant set pieces.
Their relationship has leapt forward a couple of years and, pregnant again, they are sinking into the suburban morass of comfortable home, children and pets – “It’s what I’ve always wanted, apparently,” says Horgan.
It’s a line that on one hand encapsulates society’s expectation of women and on the other an example of the deadpan sarcasm that snakes through every episode. The beauty of Catastrophe is that allows its main characters to be flawed, potty mouthed and unlikeable … in a very likable way.
Horgan and Delaney bring a natural chemistry to the lead character, which they scripted themselves, avoiding all of the tired old clichés and end-of-episode moral resolutions. There is some very well written and beautifully observed comedy in here and far from suffering second season syndrome it revels in dealing with difficult issues such as postnatal depression and unemployment and making the viewer laugh. No second series let down here then, catastrophe averted!
Catastrophe broadcasts on C4, Tuesday at 10pm or on Catchup.
If there was a Guinness World Record for the simplest comedy format, then Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled would probably be most likely to claim it.
It is very easy to describe: four people chat to comedian Alan Davies, all around a table with a few drinks, in front of an audience. That is it, and the only thing they need to do at the very end is come up with a title.
The first episode was also available to preview on UKTV’s own streaming service, although it should be pointed out that it is not the greatest streaming service in the world. It is rather jumpy.
In terms of the actual content of the show however, there is nothing to complain about, which is what counts. The guests for the first episode were comedians Lee Mack, Olivia Lee, Nick Helm and Katherine Jakeways, all of whom have their individual tales to tell. These ranged from Mack’s misadventures with a horse that damaged a Ford Anglia’s wing-mirror; Jakeways dressed as Death for an unfortunately-timed mystery play; Olivia Lee’s Jewish grandmother who is rather too keen to see Olivia getting pregnant; and Helm going to a job interview in his father’s trousers.
The brilliant thing about all these stories is that the lead everyone in the conversation the chance to take the topic in question into some strange paths. One of the first things that they talked about was Olivia being protective of damp patches during one her previous jobs in real estate. This someone leads to everyone else coming up with the idea of incontinent ventriloquism.
As Yet Untitled is a simple, cheap, fun format. A success for Dave.
Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled is one Dave at 22.00 on Tuesday nights. Episodes can be streamed on UKTV’s streaming service.
BELOW CLIP NOT SAFE FOR WORK.
As difficult as it is for me, I’m going to resist the obvious comparison between the show itself and the title character. The reason it’s so difficult is because episode 2 of the new Jekyll & Hyde is showing its true colours, and they’re a two-tone mess.
Episode 2 serves to highlight the fact that the only truly engaging parts of the show are when Hyde comes out to play.
The second instalment in this series feels stiff, stodgy, and sags whenever prim and proper Jekyll is in the driver’s seat.
There were moments of intrigue back in Ceylon with Jekyll’s adoptive brother but they soon fizzled.
The only bits that felt ‘right’ were the moments of comedy, few though there were, possibly because of Charlie Higson’s obvious comedy background.
Most importantly for the very early stages of a series built on intrigue, I’m just not intrigued or motivated enough to want to keep watching; there was no urge to ‘read on’ when this second chapter drew to a close.
There is one big problem with this week’s episode of QI: the XL extended repeat is not being shown until next week.
The XL versions always end up being moved about for some bizarre reason. This time around it is to make room for one-off drama The Dresser. The thing is that as Children in Need is coming up, QI will be skipping a week anyway, so why not put The Dresser on during the weekend when there is no QI? Awful piece of scheduling.
In terms of the overall content of the episode, the main point of interest was that one of the guests is someone rather unknown in Britain: Sami Saha, a comedian from Pakistan. Several of the questions thus had a Pakistani twist to them, such as how a crate of mangos sent to Chairman Mao by Pakistan’s foreign minister lead to the fruit being worshipped by Chinese workers. One of the best moments occurred when at the end of the story it was revealed that one Chinese worker said the mango was nothing special ended up being shot – something Saha applauded.
Aside from Saha the other panellists were Sue Perkins, who managed to make a little dig towards Mary Berry; and David Mitchell complete with his “logically ruthless world” as Stephen Fry put it. Alan Davies has a bit of a hard time, partly because the Arsenal fan’s buzzer was cheering Manchester United (a town we now know gets its name from mammary glands), but he managed to have fun with man engines.
I would say that this episode was probably weaker than last week’s episode on “Military Matters”, but not having seen the XL version yet it would be hard to give a proper judgement.
Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s searing oedipal drama, arrives on Sky Movies Premiere this week, offering viewers a 146-minute ordeal of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of brutal music teacher Terence Fletcher, played to perfection by the outstanding JK Simmonds.
When Whiplash arrived in the cinema in 2014, it raised eyebrows and puzzled many: how entertaining could a two-hour movie about a music student and his tutor be?
Entertaining, though it is, this is the wrong word to apply to Whiplash. The story centres on Andrew, an ambitious student, played by Miles Teller, who is willing to put himself through the mill in pursuit of the acceptance and praise of his bullying and sadistic mentor (Simmonds). The abusive relationship that develops between tutor and student is intoxicating and unsettling. Teller spurns the support of his father, while craving the approval of the one whose mission in life appears to be to destroy him as a musician.
The music scenes are as vicious as the dialogue. What it delivers in its two hours is a senses-bludgeoning, emotional assault that scales the highest of highs and the blackest of lows. The characters are played faultlessly and with such conviction that is possible to believe somewhere in the world Fletcher continues to ‘motivate’ his students with his unique trial by ordeal.
In short, this is one of the best films of 2014 and certainly the pick of those on TV this week. Exhausting, brutal and utterly brilliant!
Whiplash is showing on Sky Movies Premier every day from 23 to 30 October.