There has been a brace of new sketch shows on television recently, trying to capture some Little Britain glory. On digital main channels BBC3 and ITV2, we have It’s Adam and Shelly and Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show, respectively. Both are not good. Adam and Shelley do poor characters with silly accents and pointless punchlines; there was even a slightly offensive parody of Monkey, about 20 years too late. Katy Brand is a large lady, so her comedy is mostly shouty, over-the-top comedy, doing lazy versions of famous women (such as Angelina Jolie, who is so sexy she literally sweats sex appeal), but it’s mostly just shouting, as a substitute for actual comedy. The most enjoyable skit was a parody of a Lily Allen video, but that’s not exactly difficult.
Peter Serafinowicz, of Spaced, Darth Maul’s voice, the Tomorrow’s World parody Look Around You, has been given his own show on BBC2. Peter is a good character comedian and is fabulous with voices (he does a great Alan Alda, which is something that doesn’t happen very often) but the sketch show is not good. When you have a sketch where Sherlock Holmes has sex with Dr Watson after solving a case, and nothing else, you are in trouble – doing gay jokes about Holmes? Really? Really? Is that it? According to an interview on Chortle, he seemingly got the show due to a sketch he put on YouTube – he was in the US after doing a pilot that wasn’t picked up, so decided to do something creative. The only trouble is that the comedy seems to be based on a man who has been doing nothing all day but sitting around watching television and saying how rubbish it is – a robot host for a daytime talk show, a newsreader who is guessing what he is supposed to say, a vacuous E! take-off, Actors Studio parodies, QVC presenters selling tat and knowing it. It is limited and poor to say the least. He does great voices but he needs to find somebody with a sense of humour who has the power to tell him what is funny.
After all this, it was quite a surprise to find myself laughing at a sketch show again. The Armstrong and Miller Show is actually funny – they are a little edgy for BBC1 on a Friday evening, but they still remember that the point of the sketch show is to amuse other people, not just themselves. There are some recurring characters, but there are also comedy ideas played with just for the notion that they are funny, without resorting to mocking easy target celebrities or television parodies. The piece de resistance is the sketch about the chav-talking RAF airmen in World War 2 – the idea itself is sublime but the execution is hilarious. Try talking in received pronunciation voice but talking chav – it’s bloody difficult. So three cheers for being funny on the BBC.