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Comedy: According to Bex

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It’s not just me who doesn’t like BBC1’s Friday prime time comedy, According to Bex; this Chortle item reveals diminishing viewers. This is a shame for one notable reason: Jessica Stevenson.

One half of Spaced, the greatest sitcom ever, Jess is presumably going for a mainstream audience (seeing as the film route taken by her co-conspirator, Simon Pegg, with Shaun of the Dead, isn’t as readily available to her, such is the unfortunate male-domination of the film industry) and good luck to her. She is funny, smart and deserves all the good things that are coming to her.

Only, According to Bex isn’t going to do it, because it fails at the one thing comedy shouldn’t: it isn’t funny. Jess plays Rebecca, aka Bex, a PA for some poorly defined media-type company. She has a boyfriend, a sex-mad Dad, rubbish bosses and does occasional straight-to-camera bits, but as separate bits from the rest of the show. Jess is good, but it doesn’t look like she’s trying, as if she realises it’s not that good.

According to Bex is another British experiment of the American style of sitcom, i.e. there are a lot of writers working on the show. Now, I’m not going to say that all British comedy is good and American comedy is rubbish because that’s just bollocks. There is excellent American comedy by teams (The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Frasier) and there is rubbish British comedy by individuals (Last of the Summer Wine and Keeping Up Appearances, both by Roy Clarke, just as an example). Also, the best British comedy of the last few months, maybe even year, Green Wing, had a team of writers, so the issue isn’t black and white. However, the comedy-by-committee approach on BBC1 doesn’t give that particular brand of Britishness that makes a comedy great. And is why According to Bex isn’t funny.

They try hard but it borders on the painful sometimes. The canned laughter sounds particularly bad, which doesn’t help. There is the odd good line, and Jess has some nice delivery, but if you don’t laugh properly in 30 minutes, you’re in trouble. It doesn’t help having Greg Wise hamming it up for no good reason as Bex’s boss, nor the flat delivery of supposedly funny lines by Zita Sattar, who plays Bex’s friend Jan.

I don’t understand why someone like Jess, who obviously knows good writing from Spaced (or Clive Russell, who plays bland boyfriend Jack, who is in Green Wing) doesn’t have some sort of say in if something is funny. I’ve watched two episodes now, which is probably more than the rest of the country, and I didn’t laugh. I think I might have smiled once, but it was getting rather sad towards the end of the second show, desperately wanting them to make me laugh.

The show is being tested for six episodes, but I can’t see it getting another series, the only plus being that at least Jessica can go off and do something that people will want to remember her for. It’s telling that, in all preview blurbs by papers and magazines prior to the show starting, people were saying how much they loved Jessica Stevenson and how little they liked the show but were willing to forgive her doing it. Good luck with the future, Jessica; I hope that the right vehicle comes along.

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