It’s been slagged off by all and sundry, but we have a plan. Even the most miserly of killjoys will agree that ‘having a good time’ is better than ‘not having a good time’, so instead of just watching Horne and Corden and getting annoyed by every punchline involving Horne (or is it Corden) lifting up the front of his shirt to reveal his belly, we’re going to imagine the entire show is being performed by Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones in 1986, and that it’s something we’ve downloaded from UKNova. Even when Mel and Griff’s sketches weren’t that good, the goodwill engendered between the duo and their audience in the years since Not The Nine O’clock News had been enough to see them through, especially if Mel mugs a bit at the end. Imagining each sketch as if it were featuring Mel and Griff instead of the latest comedy troupe desperately thrown on air by BBC Three in the forlorn hope of maybe sneaking a British Comedy Award, may well see us through the half-hour. How long will we last? We shall see. If we can’t make it to the end, we’ll try the same trick next week, but with a different surrogate double-act.
The show starts of with a nice enough title sequence. The name of the show, a load of tellies, and some graphical jiggery pokery that seems them trashing the set to the musical backing of a Kitsune Maison compilation set on ‘shuffle’.
Similar enough to Mel & Griff co-opting the (then) new BBC-1 ident for their second series. Different variations of the same theme, if you will. One sees the identification nipples of the corporation’s flagship channel given a gentle but affectionate tweaking, the other sees two young men smashing up a load of television sets. We think this is a clever statement by H&C on how society has become more aggressive over the course of the last 23 years.
Next, a sweeping shot of the studio audience, with H&C bounding onto the set.
They are both clearly delighted to be there, or possibly this is a clever back reference to their dreadful set at The Secret Policeman’s Ball, where their entire act involved them jumping around excitedly. It is possible they are subverting the norm by making out that this is all they can do, confounding our expectations in the manner of Andy Kaufman in full pomp. At this point the audience has absolutely no idea whether the series will contain relentless Dadaesque shape throwing, gentle observations on young relationships being forged from differing backgrounds, weak references to movies from 1990, Corden lifting up his shirt a lot, or any combination of these.
Still lots of running around and shouting. Remember folks, if this was 1986, and it was Mel Smith doing this while Griff-Rhys Jones stood in the background looking unimpressed, we’d all be chuckling away merrily at this point. Sadly, Horne just has a daft grin on his face, so it doesn’t work quite as well. But hey.
Luckily, events then take a detour to a more traditional place, with Horne trying to calmly introduce the show as Corden runs up and down the stairs excitedly, causing all manner of hoo-hah. This may well be a subtle nod to the 1979 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show on Thames, where a recuperating Eric made great play from the fact his doctors had told him not the run up and down stairs so soon after his heart problems. Morecambe of course did this largely by running up and down the stairs quite a lot, though at a more sedate pace. It’s the sort of thing a 1986 Mel Smith may have done had it not been done before, and had he suffered similar problems with his health at the time of recording.
Effectively, Corden is reassuring us all that he has the verge, energy and talent to take what the late Eric Morecambe did, and run with it. With British comedy in the youthful hands of Horne and himself, it’ll be like there had merely been a twenty-six year hiatus from Britain’s greatest ever double act, and the spirits of Eric and Ern are back in fresh young bodies. Next stop, twenty-nine million viewers on Christmas Day. Hurrah!
Keen as ever to toy with the emotions of the audience, Corden’s exhaustion is now clear, much to the mild consternation of his comedy partner. It’s as if he’s saying “we both realise my previous statement about us being the new Morecambe and Wise may have been a bit too grandiose for midweek BBC Three, and we are prepared to earn your love and respect the hard way”. And then, through the medium of a punchline (mentioning Lily Allen in order to make the gasping Corden jump back to life), another swift jab is delivered to the solar plexus of our collective expectation. It’s almost like that unmade Marx Brothers film that Harpo wanted Pablo Picasso to direct!
That sketch shown on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross where Corden eats a cheeseburger, and immediately complains to the fast food vendor that it’s directly responsible for his physique. Man, if this was being performed by Mel Smith and it was 1986, we’d be smiling in such a wry manner right now.
A news spoof.
It involves a report from Iraq, being delivered by a very gay man. As far as we can tell, this isn’t actually very funny, but it’s quite likely H&C making an incredibly clever point about lazy scriptwriters all too happily falling back on tired stereotypes when they haven’t got any decent ideas to run with. This theory is cemented with a line from Corden’s Sensible Newsreader character about “Iraqi troops storming the UN embassy”. At this point, it’s a shame that (we assume) a tough editorial decision had to be made, cutting out the fourth-wall shattering denouement, involving the camera panning out to reveal the final shot is being viewed on a monitor in a BBC Three editing suite. Horne and Corden look visibly shaken by the shambolic sketch, and embark on a discussion as to how such a piece could have been included in a comedy programme from 2009.
As the post-mortem turns to who exactly it was that wrote the sketch, the camera slowly pans out to reveal numerous members of the creative team denying their involvement in the skit. Finally, the camera reveals a man dressed as Dick Emery’s gay ‘Clarence’ character from the 1970s. The 1970s Emery throwback camply howls “well, it wasn’t me dear!”, and runs away from the edit suite to the tune of “Yakety Sax”. This inconsistency is not addressed, as it is generally understood that it’ll help the BBC Three audience understand the unspoken message that such sketches are the sole preserve of all that is lazy and wrong about Old Comedy, and that H&C would never stoop so low.
Hopefully, the full sketch will be on the DVD as an extra. Oh, and this is exactly the sort of thing that Mel and Griff may have saved up for their excellent 1990s shows on BBC One, from when they’d ditched the ‘Alas’ prefix, and toyed with flitting in and out of character.
A spoof of 1984’s The Karate Kid, which mixes in the ‘David Brent’ character from moderately popular 2001 BBC Two sitcom ‘The Office’.
The BrokenTV team decide that enough is enough, and that we’re out of turd polish.
Total time elapsed: 6m12s
Next week we’ll trying and kid ourselves we could just as well be watching: Cannon and Ball.