Dear Him & Her, (BBC3, Tuesdays @10.30pm)
Well, Tuesday nights eh? They used to be rubbish. I’d come back from my Mad Lizzie exercise class (think Zumba but with big hair and neon leotards) via some form of fried chicken emporium (every action needs an equal and opposite reaction) and sink into both the sofa and a greasy state of self-loathing. Like I say, Tuesdays were rubbish. Then it all changed, because along came a show so fresh, inventive and funny that it quickly became ‘must watch’ TV. I stopped going to Poultry Bungalow and started enjoying a salad or quiche on my return home. I stopped hating myself and life in general. In short I stopped and smelled the roses, and they smelled wonderful. Tuesdays at 10.30 no longer represented everything that was wrong in the world – it was a time for us all to gather on the sofa and laugh our respective socks off – and it was all thanks to one show, Wilfred. Simply brilliant television.
Why am I telling you about how great I thought Wilfred was? Well I’m hoping that you’ll feel suitably shamed, because by comparison you make the greasy self-loathing look like a two-week all-inclusive holiday in the Algarve, local alcohol included. To go from the quirky, original and genuinely funny Wilfred to the seen it all before, stilted, awkward, puerile laugh desert that you presented me with was akin to going to bed with Angelina Jolie and waking up with Dom Joly. In fact it’s even worse than that, because whilst that scenario would be massively disappointing there’s still an outside chance you’d get a laugh out of it. I think you get my point though, I loved Wilfred, and I loved it precisely because it was everything you are not.
In fairness to you I should have known what was coming as I had already subjected myself to the horrors of watching half of series 1 (a feat for which the medal I should have been awarded never arrived) and struggled to raise anything beyond a stifled obscenity and a look of sad bemusement. However, the powers that be saw fit to grant you a second series – “It must have picked up in the second half!” I thought to myself, temporarily forgetting that ‘the powers that be’ at BBC3 are the same people who kept re-commissioning 2 Pints of Lager until even the cast and crew hated it – so, I figured I’d give you a second chance too. Mistake.
I don’t know what it is I like least about you. Well that’s not true, it’s the fact that for a ‘comedy’ you’re not what I like to call ‘funny’. Not even vaguely. However, that’s
obvious, any old fool with a sense of humour and opposable thumbs could write to you and point out that you’re not funny, like you don’t already know it, but what’s the point? Like if Pete Burns asks “How do I look?” responding “You look like a monkey that’s been in a car crash. A really bad one. Whilst not wearing a seatbelt. And carrying a box of nails.” isn’t going to help, he knows this so it’s a worthless and pointless observation that isn’t going to help you one bit. ‘Be funnier’, while great advice and certainly something you should consider (alongside ‘stop altogether’ and ‘sod off’) is too vague, and one could argue too easy – being funny at all would achieve that goal. So, setting the obvious aside what are my gripes?
Well, I think I’ll limit myself to the top three, and to make it feel exciting I’m going to start at three!
You haven’t got any and it’s a vital part of comedy. You don’t need it by the bucket load, just a smidgen here and there, but it
feels utterly absent throughout – like with Ed Milliband (in fact I like that analogy better – you are Ed Milliband to Wilfred’s David). You’ve even managed to somehow clinically remove the charm from the bewitchingly sexy Sarah Solemani which should not only be impossible, but should be punishable by imprisonment. How have you done this? Well I think it’s in your efforts to…
2) Mimic Reality
Doing this is all well and good, if you actually do it, but you’ve got all the ‘real feel’ of Ricky Gervais’ humility or Amy Children’s breasts. I’m assured that I’m supposed to feel like I’m peaking through the window on to a couple going about their everyday lives, so why do I actually feel like I’m watching a highly contrived effort at commonness, crudeness and banality? It’s not because of the performances of Tovey or Solemani because these two are actually alright – though the supporting cast could turn to appearing smoked, sliced and glazed in honey at the local Deli such is their hamminess – no, it’s because whilst aiming for the position filled by The Royle Family you’ve fallen well short, and that’s partly because of the…
The number one sin in trying to be realistic. Don’t feel bad, loads of much bigger budget productions make a far bigger hash of it than you have (see The Shadow Line). In fairness a lot of your dialogue is really quite good in this respect; at times I found myself believing I was listening to actual conversations – but my God those conversations were dull. If the News of the World hacks had listened in to these conversations for all those years they’d be heading to an asylum, not a prison. Sure, some people probably do talk like that to each other, and conversations of a similar ilk probably happen up and down the country on a daily basis – but that doesn’t make them good TV. Unfortunately when the dialogue isn’t dull it dives headlong in to ‘heavily contrived’ territory – I mean what’s all that ‘apple rubbing’ thing about? It felt like it was trying to be Quentin Tarantino. It didn’t work.
Look, you’ve got plenty of people who think you’re great just the way you are and that all that occurs is ‘wryly observed’, the poor bastards, their lives must be painfully dull. My point is though that this is just my opinion – it’s right, obviously – but you’ve got plenty of easily pleased idiots you can turn to if you want to feel better about yourself. And no, I’m not just talking about the BBC3 Commissioners.
So don’t go changing (though you probably should)
PS – If you missed Wilfred then I’d seriously suggest getting the box set.
PPS – And then watching it on Tuesday nights at 10.30pm
PPPS – It’s good to be back!