I was told by Broadcast that I would be reviewing some comedies but after 15 humour-free minutes of Five’s new sitcom Angelo’s I was starting to wonder.
The show follows the fortunes of the assorted oddballs who hang out at the eponymous café. Their lives are all rather mundane and, unfortunately, so is the resulting show.
It feels as if the creators have tried to repeat the successful formula of Channel 4’s Green Wing: weave together some loosely linked sketches about a bunch of misfits whose lives revolve around one location, but sadly the similarities end there.
Whereas Green Wing was brilliantly written, directed and acted, this isn’t. You can spot the jokes and plot twists a mile off, it’s unimaginatively shot and the characters are utterly one-dimensional.
BBC3’s The Mighty Boosh, on the other hand, has more dimensions than a time travellers’ convention. This time round the guys are running their Shaman mate Naboo’s store. Imagine Open All Hours on LSD crossed with the League of Gentlemen’s “local shop” and you’ll get the picture. In the opening scene Vince Noir has tagged 400 celebrities with his celebrity radar and is selling their last known locations to fans while Howard Moon is trying to flog “angry beige” elbow patches to a transvestite drawn in to the shop by the graffiti outside that reads “Moon licks balls for money”.
To be honest, the humour is a bit hit and miss and some of the acting is pretty wooden but none of this matters as it’s just a joy to hitch a ride and see where their surreal, magical and utterly bonkers imaginations are going to end up. Perhaps the Angelo’s writing team should attend one of their scripting sessions for inspiration?
Learners on BBC1 is a gentle, bitter-sweet comedy drama in which downtrodden Jessica Hynes is desperate to learn to drive to improve her humdrum life cleaning toilets and living with a husband who doesn’t appreciate her. It is similar territory to Angelo’s but the difference is this show has a heart and, as a study of people whose lives haven’t quite turned out as they’d hoped, it’s pretty compelling. Plus David Tennant is deliciously repressed as a Christian driving instructor offering salvation. Learners has few real surprises and you can pretty well predict what’s going to happen - but that is rather like real life I guess.
Mark Rubens is Ricochet deputy creative director
Five’s homegrown comedy for the autumn is Angelo’s. Set in a café in Trafalgar Square, it is a classic sitcom, a greasy spoon version of Cheers but without the laughs.
The show is about a hybrid bunch of characters but unfortunately I didn’t warm to any of them: not Angelo, aspiring X Factor contestant Maria or nymphomaniac policewoman Karen, played by Sharon Horgan, who wrote and starred in Pulling - and now this.
Comedy is of course an incredibly tough genre to crack and audiences can be unforgiving. If they don’t get it first time they’re unlikely to give it a second chance.
For someone brought up on Dick Emery (respect) and Benny Hill (genius) I was a bit nervous about reviewing BBC3’s very modern The Mighty Boosh. But I needn’t have worried. Into its third series, it is an engaging, absorbing, ultimately silly but strangely compelling programme. True, I didn’t have a clue what was going on half the time (I left the 16 to 34 age group some time back) but it didn’t seem to matter.
Any programme which features a rubbish song about eels and discusses the merits of elbow patches in aggressive nutmeg, a shade never before seen on a colour chart, gets my vote. As a result, this affectionate bunch of surreal, daft and deranged freaks (the Shaman, Bollo, the Moon) led by the brilliant Noel Fielding (Vince Noir) and Julian Barratt (Howard Moon) transform what looks like an amateurish panto into a slick, polished production.
Beverley didn’t pass her driving test first time but it didn’t deter her from trying again. And again and again. Learners is a charming, fairly gentle BBC1 comedy drama starring the hugely charismatic David Tennant, cast this time as a devout Christian driving instructor with the patience of a saint (the sort of guy who’d wear elbow patches).
It’s written by the multitalented Jessica Hynes who, apparently, took 10 years to pass her own test. She also stars in it (as Beverley) and writes the theme tune - though she doesn’t sing it. Learners explores the universal themes of love, loss, loneliness, ambition and romantic entanglements. It’s a bit slow at the start but it has a cracking cast and once it picks up a pace it’s a pleasant enough way to spend 90 minutes.
Paula Trafford is managing director of Scarlet Television