There’s More to This Than Meets the I-player

W1A, the sort-of sequel to 2012, is a mockumentary about the BBC; specifically, its staff who work behind the scenes in Broadcasting House.  It has been going for two or three years, and at first I found it subtly enjoyable but short on real laughs.  But it has grown on me.  As I pointed out a few days ago:

it’s a sort of cross between The Office and Dilbert with bits of Reggie Perrin thrown in (there’s a pair who say ‘brilliant’ and ‘cool’ which is surely the modern version of ‘great’ and ‘super’:

Most of the characters work in jobs no-one understands, least of all themselves: and top of the incomprehensible heap is Ian Fletcher, formerly Head of Olympic Deliverance, now appointed as the BBC’s Head of Values (or Captain Values, as his colleague Simon likes to call him.)  We first see him arriving on his Brompton; it’s not long before Simon gets a better one, thus beginning a running gag about Brompton bikes.

In series two Anna Rampton, previously moderately competent, is promoted to Director of Better, a job neither she nor anyone else understands:

‘The fact is this is about identifying what we do best and finding more ways of doing less of it better.’  This is pure Dilbert; but as the series went on I found myself irresistibly reminded of Theresa May, another woman promoted beyond her capabilities and reduced to repeating meaningless soundbites.

Simon’s Machiavellian  antics, previously confined to bikes and buck-passing, reach new heights in this third series when a new post is created and no-one tells Ian Fletcher.  When challenged, Simon tells Ian the post was considered beneath his grade.

‘Well, can I sit on the interview panel then?’

‘Sorry, that’s just for the big-wigs.’

‘Great.  So I’m too important to apply for the job but not important enough to sit on the interview panel.’

‘It’s a unique position Ian.’

Brilliant stuff.

Meanwhile Lucy, the only competent person in the BBC apart from Ian Fletcher, is spending every spare moment being pursued by the intolerable David who keeps bending her ear about his problems and then passing off his ideas as her own.

But in spite of the Dilbert connection I suspect this wouldn’t work in the US because none of the comedy would arise if it wasn’t for everyone being just too damned polite.  Siobhan Sharpe of the BBC’s PR company is everyone’s worst nightmare and impervious to – well, anything at all really – but no-one has the gall to tell her so: Simon is a shit-stirrer extraordinaire who dodges every bullet by saying ‘well, I don’t know how these things work and you’ll know how you want to deal with this’ whereas David’s tactic is to go uber-camp: ‘I know!  Tell me about it!  It’s a nightmare!’ when everyone knows it was his incompetence that caused the problem in the first place.  But they’re all too polite to say so – all except Neil, the old-fashioned tell-it-like-it-is head of news who says things like ‘bollocks’ and ‘we’re f***d.’  But alas, his tropes are no more effective than anyone else’s.  The last series ends with Lucy and Ian almost getting together… but I’m sure some nightmare co-worker will turn up and put a stop to it, and they’ll be too polite to tell them to **** off.

I urge you to watch this if you can.  Series 3 is on i-player and if you have Netflix you can watch series 2 there as well.  You can watch it on your syncopatitablet…

Kirk out


Extras! Extras! Read all about it!

I guess my TV viewing is a little out of date, what with me being reliant on the iplayer, but I’ve only just caught up with ‘Extras.’  I don’t really like Ricky Gervais; he’s very talented but I prefer to laugh rather than squirm when I’m watching a comedy, and though ‘The Office’ was brilliant I didn’t much enjoy it.  But ‘Extras’ is great.  There’s a different scene every week and the opportunity to bring in guest stars who are playing ‘themselves’ – such as Kate Winslet, Les Dennis and Ross Kemp.  And although it has its awkward, ‘Office’-type moments, you grow to like the characters.  It’s unpredictable, and I like that.  Of course you know things are going to go horribly wrong, but you don’t know how – and it’s not always the central characters that are to blame.

It reminds me of the more recent ‘W1A’.  A spoof fly-on-the-wall documentary with David Tennant doing the v/o, my favourite character is the grinning shit-stirrer whose catch-phrase is ‘Very good – very strong’ – and who always tries to land his boss in it by saying things like; ‘is this something you’d like to be across in terms of Values?’ to which Ian Fletcher can only reply ‘Yes, no – yes, absolutely,’ while wanting to throttle the guy (people are always saying ‘Yes – no’ or ‘No – yes’ in this series.  And in the blue corner we have Anna, promoted to a job neither she nor anyone else can understand, and jabbering things like ‘the fact is,’ and ‘this is all about Better’ in a panicky sort of way. The only genuine character, ‘lovely’ Lucy, is being stalked by her one-time colleague who constantly tries to dump his problems onto her.  The voice-over is full of gems such as ‘meanwhile, in the Syncopati-cafe, it is becoming increasingly obvious to Lucy that she is having some sort of breakfast.’

It’s terrific stuff, and the more I watch it, the more I see in it.

‘Extras’ is on Netflix and W1A may still be floating about on i-player, so go watch.

Kirk out

Hegel, Don’t Bother Me

Mark was banging on about Hegel this morning, as he often does, especially his ideas on the subconscious – and I didn’t know what to say.  I mean, the subconscious is somewhat imponderable, isn’t it?  It’s like the unseen – as soon as you can see it, it’s not unseen any more.  What is the subconscious nowadays anyway?  Have you seen one?  Let me know…

I’ve got a new follower on this blog called Plutonium spray-paints.  I know they’re just following me in order to advertise their stuff, but the paints look brilliant; although I was somewhat worried about the title and whether they actually use weapons-grade plutonium in their making.  The implications of that would be quite disturbing and I would have to bring them to Bruce Kent’s attention when I see him tonight.  However, on further examination it seems that plutonium is just a name and that it’s a quick-drying type of acrylic spray paint.  So that’s all good.

That phrase reminds me that on the iplayer I have just started watching W1A.  I had no idea what this was and only clicked on it on a whim, but it turns out to be a sequel to ‘2012’ with the same characters and the same basic premise, only this time set at the Beeb.

It’s a sort of Navy Lark de nos jours, where a bunch of incompetents with no real jobs pretend to be actually doing something and go around saying things like ‘yah, great’ and ‘so that’s all good.’  One of my favourite bits is the meeting-room, a sort of glass pod known as ‘Frankie Howerd’ which has a picture of the man on one wall and sayings like ‘Titter Ye Not’ sprayed on the glass.

Hmm.  Spray paint – there seems to be a theme emerging here.  Perhaps it was in my subconscious all along…

Kirk out

PS  And come along to see Bruce Kent tonight at the Secular Hall for his ‘No Faith in Trident’ tour.