Gigglebox Weekly #17
This week Ian Wolf attends a funeral, goes back to World War One, and points out a sketch show.
Now back for its fourth series, the main question concerning Outnumbered is, ‘Is it still funny after all this time?’ The answer would appear to be ‘Yes’ – mind you, the fact that the first episode went out after My Family probably helped.
Eldest son Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey) is getting into a stage of typical teenage stroppiness, rallying against other members of the family and their attitudes, such as his mother Sue’s (Claire Skinner) views of gay stereotypes; troublesome Ben (Daniel Roche) is refusing to wear his Wii safety cord and is under the belief that Jeremy Clarkson is gay; and curious Karen (Ramona Marquez) has an idea for stopping people stealing mobile phones by using bubonic plague.
The parents also have their own trouble, with father Pete (Hugh Dennis) quitting his job as a history teacher over a point of principle (and seemingly his own stupidity) and now working as a supply teacher, meaning Sue is working full time – and Karen is not happy about that. Pete is also having trouble with a eulogy at the funeral of his late gay uncle, which Sue finds amousing.
Outnumbered is still one of the best sitcoms around as far as I’m concerned. The semi-improvisation with the children is a joy to watch, especially when it comes to Karen. Let’s hope it continues to keep the pace up.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing all Channel 4’s Comedy Showcase pilots and all of E4’s Comedy Lab pilots.
The Comedy Showcase season began with sitcom Chickens starring and co-written by The Inbetweeners’ Simon Bird and Joe Thomas, along with Jonny Sweet. Set in the fictional Kentish village of Rittle-on-Sea in 1914, Chickens follows the lives of the three young men left in the village who have not joined up in the army and are thus despised by everyone else in the village.
Cecil (Bird) tried to join but got rejected due to his flat feet; teacher George (Thomas) is a pacifist and refuses to join for conscientious reasons; and Bert (Sweet) is a philandering coward who seems to be completely unaware the war is going on. Other than unpopularity, the water in their cottage is brown, Bert’s brother Bobby has been killed at the front, and kindly George is in danger for losing his job at the school.
Like most pilots, it’s not perfect, but it does have plenty to drive it forward and will no doubt be made into a series due to the popularity of its stars. Highlights for me include George going mad when he is forced to cane a boy, and Cecil doing something unspeakable to a special tree.
Anna & Katy
The first Comedy Lab pilot is this sketch show starring Anna Crilly and Katy Wix, which also featured guest appearances from Lee Mack and Eamonn Holmes. While I wanted to avoid using the cliché of sketch shows being ‘hit and miss’, I though that this show was… well, you can guess.
One problem I have with this show is that the ideas appear to be limited. They had a bunch of sketches in the first half, and the characters and situations were just repeated in the second half. I certainly don’t mind recurring characters in sketch shows over the course of a series, but, to me, repeating them in the same episode is rather lazy.
Sketches include a pair of women living in a flat owned by a goat, a German hospital soap opera with lots of fake slapping, and day time show Congratulation! in which the two women give a ‘Congratulation’ to people over the trivial things, and give the biggest congratulation by displaying their censored vaginas.
However, there were bits I liked. One of the characters was a nervous woman giving out awards at a village fete. While she, on the whole, was one of the weaker characters, the preposterous sight of a cake in the shape of a swastika did make laugh. Also there was Holmes’s game show Pointer, a Weakest Link parody in which people hold out very stiff arms and point out who they want eliminating. Then there were the women who were obsessed with measuring anything, including the distance their uncle had to be from a primary school.
This show does have potential. All they need to do is sort out the wheat from the chaff and utilise the best sketches to their advantage.