TellyHead Jan 2010

16 Jan

Same great occasional column, less shit name.

The Persuasionists, BBC 2, Wednesdays at 2200

Never before in all my years of watching telly have I seen a program which has caused so many people to abandon the idiot box, switch on their PCs and take to web forums, facebook and twitter in united disgust. Normal, everyday people who usually wouldn’t think about registering their displeasure semi-anonymously on the internet suddenly raced to their twitter accounts to post such utter gems as this, this and this particularly harsh one. As we type, there isn’t a “I BET I CAN FIND 1,000,000 PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HANG DRAW AND QUARTER THE WRITERS OF THE PERSUASIONISTS” facebook group, but it’s surely only a matter of time.

It is with such strength of feeling that I set out the case for the defence. Having watched the first episode on Thursday morning on the BBC iPlayer, I was aware of some negative reaction from the previous nights screening, yet having prepared myself for something worse than cancer, I was pleasantly surprised that a) it wasn’t actually all *that* bad, and b) it’s got potential for future episodes, and dare I say it, *possibly future series*.

You see, what I got from the first episode of the Persuasionists is exactly the same feeling I got from the first episode of the Mighty Boosh, and even the first episode of Blackadder – work in progress. It was basically a pilot that, due to a scheduling error, seemed to work its way into the main series, and it showed.
The characters were portrayed as being so one-dimensional, it’s like the telly was shouting “This is why it’s funny? Geddit? HE’S A COCK-ER-NEE! HO HO HO!” in your face, just as a drunken Glaswegian tells you “you’ll be alright roond here, pal” an inch from your face on a Saturday night in town.
Furthermore, I got the impression that I had seen some of the characters before in a different lifetime. For fans of Iain Lee’s radio show, you’ll no doubt notice that his character, Billy, is very similar to his on-air radio persona, smart, self-assured and cynical, albeit without the crackpots who ring in; Clive, the boss played by Jarred Christmas, is very similar to Bob Fossil from the Mighty Boosh, except he’s Australian, and instead of dancing to 10CC in a sketch, he’s singing Midnight Oil; and Keaton, the ker-ay-zee European guy, well, I’m fairly sure that was just Mr Bean.
This aside, there were some genuine funny moments in the show. It may be puerile, and it was certainly very silly, but “I’ve had your Mum” jokes will always draw a smile, even if you feel ashamed and slightly dirty about yourself after. Ditto slapstick, and what better form of slapstick can there be than Adam Buxton taking a Lakeland metal bread-bin full in the face? Answer me that, haters.

The inescapable fact about the Persuasionists, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s trying to be a traditional sitcom, and like Lab Rats, Big Top, and My Fucking Family have shown, the traditional sitcom isn’t the king of comedy it once was. As viewers, we’ve become accustomed to shows without canned laughter, and the humour to be incidental, rather than a funny line here or there. If we keep this in mind, and watch The Persuasionists knowing that what we see is what we’ll get, it doesn’t seem so bad at all.

If, and I’ve a sneaky suspicion it will work out this way, the characters can get a bit more depth, possibly a little bit of a back story thrown their way by the scriptwriters, the show will get better over the next few weeks. If the plots remain roughly the same, the show will be consigned to the dustbin of comedy alongside Meet the Magoons and My Hero. All I know is that I’m willing to give it another chance next week. 6/10


One Response to “TellyHead Jan 2010”

  1. Victoria January 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Is My Fucking Family prime time?'Cause it sounds very post-watershed.


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