Gigglebox Weekly #15
This week Ian Wolf goes shopping and tours the country.
Trollied is the first of several new comedy shows being made by Sky this season.
The show is set in a supermarket, looking at the lives of a north-western branch of Valco (“Serves you right”). The characters include Julie (Jane Horrocks), the current deputy manager who currently is holding the job temporarily, or as she puts it “interimming” (and not “into rimming”); butcher Andy (Mark Addy), a man who can tell a type of sausage by simply resting it on his shoulder; and Margaret (Rita May), a pensioner who appears to be away with the fairies.
The series began with a double bill, which probably helped as it gave viewers who weren’t sure about the show the chance to see how it would develop.
Before the series began some questions had already been thrown up by the critics. For starters, how come no-one had set a sitcom in a supermarket before, as it seems an ideal location – an environment from which the staff cannot escape from, with various layers of hierarchy, including managers, checkout staff and stockers. I think I know why such a setting has never done before – cost. Supermarkets are large buildings, and normally there is no way a supermarket would let a TV crew in there for fear of disturbing the business, so you have to build a huge set.
Luckily, when it comes to creating big-scale TV shows, Sky has experience. They’re responsible for bringing Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels into real-life. Compared to creating a world resting on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant turtle, a supermarket should be simplicity itself. Mind you, it is easy to do when your channel is owned by the world’s second largest media company (after Disney), a group which owns two of the most popular animated sitcoms in the world (The Simpsons and Family Guy), some of the biggest scale dramas currently on TV at the moment (House), and owns more newspapers than you can shake a hacked telephone at.
Trollied also has other problems when it comes to critical reception. Namely, as it is a workplace sitcom it will be compared to The Office and therefore everyone will look down on it. But why stop there? It is also a retail sitcom, so you could compare it to Open All Hours or Are Your Being Served? for that matter. Just because there are similar sitcoms to it does not mean that it will be rubbish.
In terms of laughs, there were a few – enough to give it promise – but whether or not it can sustain that I don’t know.
Ronnie Corbett’s Comedy Britain
This new ITV1 documentary sees Ronnie Corbett meeting up with some of his favourite comedians, past and present, while also looking back at key comedy moments.
As a result, this programme, on the whole, is not going to suit a die-hard comedy fan; because it covers lots of things that they will already know about, such as how The Two Ronnies came together, or the early radio history of Little Britain. This show is really more for the casual comedy observer who wants to learn more.
One thing that got me thinking, however, was that this first episode was all about comedy partnerships. However, Corbett didn’t actually meet up with any double acts – just half of them, namely Miranda Hart, Stephen Merchant, David Mitchell, Matt Lucas and John Cleese (although admittedly there is a very good reason why Cleese’s comedy partner was not on, seeing as how Graham Chapman has been dead for over 20 years).
If anything, this show seemed to be a comedian’s version of Jim’ll Fix It, with Corbett giving many of his comedians some exciting experiences. For example he allowed Miranda Hart to walk on to a stage where Morecambe and Wise had one of their greatest ever stage shows to the tune of “Bring Me Sunshine”. Another segment saw Corbett getting Merchant a brand new tailor-made suit; another featured Corbett doing a Little Britain radio sketch, attempting to do Vicky Pollard – badly.
To be honest I was almost expecting Corbett to be sitting in his chair, holding a cigar and saying something along the lines of: “Now then, now then, I’ve got a letter from a Jim Davidson of London what says; ‘Dear Ronnie, I haven’t been on telly for years due to no-one liking my act because it is racist. So could you fix it for me to appear on your show?’ Well, goodness gracious, unfortunately Ronnie Corbett’s Comedy Britain does have a very tight budget, so Jim how would you like it if Ronnie fixed it for you to sing with the black and white minstrels?”
Having said all this I did like some of the archive clips that they showed, graphically onto any flat surface such as walls, clothing displays and theatre curtains. Some of them also featured clips I hadn’t heard before such as one clip from The Goon Show which I found absolutely hilarious.
So, this show does contain the odd comedy laugh that you won’t have heard of 50 times already, but other than that it is just a series of interviews and pleasant surprises.
Ian Wolf is away in Edinburgh for Festival Fringe, so there won’t be a Gigglebox column for the next two weeks.