Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Frankie Boyle's Tramadol NIghts (Channel 4)

Frankie Boyle was by far the best thing on Mock The Week and the live show I saw a couple of years ago was excellent so I was looking forward to his first solo TV show. Boy was I disappointed. Not because it didn't quite live up to the expectation I had of it, but because it was plain terrible.

It started OK with a stand up section to start, but having only around 5 minutes meant there was no structure to the comedy and instead it was just a series of "dark" jokes. On Mock The Week when contrasted against lighter comics and across a 90 minute show where the level of darkness can rise and fall this worked brilliantly. When strung together fast and unrelelnting almost everything good about Frankie Boyle vanishes and he just comes across as cruel and vulgar.

Yet the 3 stand-up sections were the undeniable highlight compared to the woeful series of sketches that filled out the rest of the show. One sketch was a funny idea done badly and the first installment of George Michael's Highway Code would have been funny if it had just been "mirror, signal, wank, crash, wank" instead of going on. Other than those two none of the sketches were anything better than utter dross. Crude ideas executed very amateurishly. Whoever shot and directed the sketches should never work in TV again as they looked cheaper than the sketches off that cheap sketch show that Michael Marshall Smith appeared on (I can't remember the name of it but hopefully someone (Al?) might). Thing is, that was very cheap while this is Frankie Boyle in a prime Channel 4 comedy slot and will have a budget.

Overall an unmitigated disaster that can't be fixed until a second series it doesn't deserve. So bad I genuinely mean this final sentence. Much worse than The X Factor!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

This Is England '86 (Channel 4)

Finally got round to watching Shane Meadows follow up to This Is England and how very good it was too. Not only was I surprised by how funny the first 2 episodes were, but by how light they were on the whole. The comedy far outweighed the weightier material and a lot of it was truly inspired. I actually think my favourite moment in the whole series was a comedy moment from very early when a gang of biker youths have to turn round in the road to bully Shaun; just a perfectly pitched comedy moment.

Meadows did not direct the first 2 episodes and when he does the drama becomes more prevalent, although the turn in tone is played perfectly across the episode climaxing in a tough final 10 minutes. Up to here this is a truly magnificent series and everything is set for a brilliantly finale, but it doesn't quite make it. The final episode is very good, just not great.

The main problem, for me, was one of predictability and convenience and it can be pinpointed on one character; the return of Combo. Suddenly you have a character appear who's completely changed from the one we know and love/loathe with no real explanation and can only ever serve the purpose of giving everything a neat end. He's a deus ex machina, essentially. By not appearing until the very end there is never any time to learn anything about him and he didn't really ring true because of this.

There's also an element of the other stories being pushed aside to make way for the big emotional hit and I missed them. Maybe if there had been 5 episodes with the final episode being extended into 2, the act of violence ending the 4th episode, it could have finished as brilliantly as it started. It probably would have been a more hard going ending, but it could've been phenomenal.

Still a very very good series that does the brilliant film justice. I'm looking forward to 4 years time when we may get, with a bit of luck, This Is England '90 when we get a music montage of Gazza crying while Gadget chokes on his own vomit after a smack overdose!