What's On: Has great British TV comedy had its day?


Tamsin Greig and Mark Heap in Friday Night Dinner. Image: Channel Four.


Isobel Miller looks at the changing face of comedy this week and asks, is anything on TV really that funny anymore?

Call me a cynic, but flicking through the abundance of new comedy recently has made me doubt the future of television comedy altogether. Following the huge success and critical acclaim of shows like Peep Show and The Inbetweeners, a whole host of programmes have sprung up which seem to be trying to cash in on the trend of awkward, real-life comedy.

In light of this, Greg Davies’ (The Inbetweeners) new series Cuckoo, did not give me much hope, and not only because it’s on BBC 3. Opening with a full-moon party on a Thai beach and some classic ‘Gap Yah’ humour, Cuckoo was quickly ticking off every cliché in the book. If you weren’t bored of ‘Gap Yah’ humour before, you definitely will be after half-an-hour of Cuckoo’s strained references to spiritual enlightenment and LCD trips. Sighs were heard across the country; it is not enough to base a whole series on and the script itself was bland and lacking in originality. Davies’ performance is disappointing at best, one which consists largely of huffy eye-rolling, and if he wasn’t watching from behind a pillow, as we were, something is very, very wrong.

Maybe the problem is not The Inbetweener’s cast and is in fact Cuckoo I wondered. After enjoying the first series of Friday Night Dinner, many of us were genuinely pleased to see another series returning to our screens. A second series means the show can’t have been that bad, doesn’t it? Well, the problem is, things can go downhill very fast, and these unambitious new comedies don’t give themselves much to work with.

Simon Bird stars as Adam, a character not dissimilar from Will in The Inbetweeners, which is perhaps one of the reasons we continue to find him amusing. He can worry about being type-cast later I guess. The snap of quick exchange between him and his brother Jonny do manage to bring a smile to your face, even if, from another room, it would sound like you were watching the news. Mark Heap, who will be better known as Dr Alan Statham in Green Wing does do the show a massive favour; him and his large Alsatian, Wilson, who he is terrified of, interrupt dinner each week with a range of bizarre excuses and are of course, ludicrously funny. But where does it go from here? How many series can you run on the thin promise of a vaguely entertaining family dinner?

It may be unfair to say there is absolutely no comedy on television worth watching anymore, but something is definitely missing. Where is the originality of the Python boys, the wit of Attkinson, the script of Hugh and Laurie, the brilliant one-liners that get repeated to death? What we desperately need is for the next generation of Edinburgh Fringers to dream up something amazing, and we’ll be back to the classic, side-splitting British comedy that we know and love. Until then, Johnny Sweet, no pressure.

Cuckoo is on BBC3 on Tuesdays at 10pm.

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