Daniel Schwendener

Gigglebox Weekly #2

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Gigglebox | Giggle Beats


Welcome to the second instalment of Gigglebox, the weekly TV comedy column that is sweeping the globe.  Enjoy it now before you have to pay a substantial subscription fee.


Dirk Gently

Now I am not the expert on Douglas Adams – I have read most of the Hitchhikers’ quadrilogy and have seen a bit of the original TV series. I know the general style he writes in, but I am by no means an expert.

With that disclaimer in mind, I feel the producers have done a great job of transferring Douglas Adam’s comic writing style to TV.  I understand that the story does not follow the plot of the original book, but the general consensus is, “Who cares?”.  The one-off show is about Dirk Gently funnily enough, and his Holistic Detective Agency. Dirk works on the premise that absolutely everything in the universe is linked, no matter how distant or oblique those connections – and tells you all for a heart-stoppingly modest rate (plus expenses).

Overall the show was (not to be too technical) really good.  Stephen Mangan was an excellent choice portraying the eccentric Dirk brilliantly, his performance at once both subtle and a little bit mad.  It would be too easy to play the character over the top –  what some might call wacky – but Mangan manages to keep him in check.  Darren Boyd in the supporting role works really well and there was a good balance between the unpredictable Dirk and the slightly more boring Macduff played by Boyd. Not that he was boring in the role – the character himself is more down to earth; unemployed, unmotivated and lacking in self confidence.  It’s a classic mix of straight man and mad man.  It’s not hard to see that they have done this one-off with a view to creating a series. If they do, it would be stupid not to keep these two on in their roles.

The show manages to be funny, a bit weird and genuinely interesting in its premise.  Given that Dirk’s style of sleuthing is based on a series of seemingly coincidental events it would be easy for these coincidences to feel forced, however the writing, pacing and editing help a lot here.  I was surprised by the reveals save for one or two occasions, though this may be more an indication of my blissful ignorance than anything else.

This is the kind of comedy BBC should be making, in my opinion – rather this than an onslaught of panel shows and dance based competitions.  Vote with your fingers and click on over to the BBC iPlayer to watch Dirk Gently now. That’s an order.

Peep Show

Just a quick note on the seventh outing of Peep Show, the cult TV show gone good.  I got into Peep Show very late, initially put off by the amount of hype surrounding the series.  I know that’s a bit of a stupid reason, but when every man and his dog tells you how amazing something is it tends to put me off.  There’s no obvious logic behind that, but make of it what you will.

I think we’re far enough into this series to make a judgement and that judgement is a nice, cheesy thumbs up.  After a good start the show slid into a bit of a slump come series four and five, and I don’t know why.  It could have been the amount of Sophie or the lack of Super Hans – either way I just don’t enjoy those series as much.  Series six was a return to form and series seven is continuing that trend.  This is one of the only shows I look forward to with anticipation each week and the one show that consistently has me guffawing throughout.  Recent news indicates another two series of Peep Show are on the horizon which I am very happy about, as long as they keep the quality high and the Sophie content low. The next series probably won’t come onto our screens until late 2012, as the writers and cast are apparently wrapped up in other projects throughout 2011.

The Morgana Show

It’s an interesting one. I wasn’t a fan at first, but I think it’s starting to grow on me – not much, though.  It’s a terribly clichéd thing to say about a sketch show, but it’s very much hit and miss.

First off I have to mention the Fearne Cotton sketches.  The impression is as accurate as you could get, to the point where she could convincingly present a TV show and no one would be any the wiser.  Quite how hard it is to do an impression of someone so lacking in personality or depth, I don’t know.  The sketches themselves are almost as vacuous as Cotton, lacking any kind of subtlety or real creativity.

This pretty much sets the tone for most of her sketches; brilliant character acting and impressions with very little else.  There are a couple of exceptions to this rule: the Lady Gaga snippets are good (but getting old fast) and the obnoxious business man sketches are very satisfying.  The Gilbert Show is perhaps my favourite – well observed character and some really funny setups and jokes.  Initially I was a little disturbed, mainly by the fact that a fairly attractive woman can play a convincing teenage boy.  It’s definitely a bit creepy.

I’ll stick with The Morgana Show and not just because my girlfriend insists on watching it.  I can’t help feeling that once the series ends I’ll not miss it and soon forget it ever existed.  Morgana Robinson clearly has a talent, but that talent is for acting more than writing.  I would very much like to see her do some collaborative work with some better writers in the future.

Well, that’s it for this week.  I’ve written two whole weeks worth of this and I am understandably worn out.  I’m taking a two week hiatus to rest, recover and eat vast quantities of food.  January is notoriously poor for television so get ready for some slim pickings.  Check out the rest of Giggle Beats for details of comedy nights in your area, a preferable alternative to repeats of Only Fools & Horses.