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Dear Him & Her

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.

Wilfred - made Tuesday nights something other than an orgy of chicken grease and onanism

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.

"No, he thought he'd gone to bed with Angelina Jolie! What? Of course I let him!"

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

Pete Burns - pop star, pin cushion, primate

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!

3) Charm

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

Remove the charm from this beauty, go on, I challenge you. Oh you have? Already? Oh...

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…

1) Dialogue

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.

A middle class couple having a dull conversation about guacamole and loft insulation. I don't want to listen to this either. Dullness is not limited by class.

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)

Tatty Bye

R x

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!

Dear Funny or Die Presents

Dear Funny or Die Presents, (Sky Atlantic, Mondays @ 10pm-ish)

How has it come to this. I was one of the first to visit you at your place in Cyber Space, do you remember? I came over quite a few times by myself and then I invited a few friends over, they all seemed to like you because before I knew it they were heading to you without me. I don’t have a problem with that, we’re all grown ups after all, but then they started telling their other friends about you and not even mentioning me. I’ll be honest with you, that hurt. Not just being excluded – I’m quite used to that, it comes with being massively opinionated and always right – no, the real pain came from the fact that when I did come see you again you’d stopped making the effort.

When we first met - I can't believe how young you look!

Those first few times were magical, it was like I was the only person in the room and all you wanted to do was bring a smile to my face, then you became more and more popular and my smile faded away. My laughter – that had once seemed like a drug to you (in that it’s addictive and gives you a buzz, not that it makes you soil yourself, talk incessantly and resort to prostitution to fuel your habit) – was now merely a distant memory to both of us. Sure, you could still make me smile but I wouldn’t read too much into that – I smile when I see a midget, a squirrel or a child struggling to put its coat on – the magic was gone and I had to look elsewhere for my chuckles. You don’t have to say it, I know that you neither noticed nor cared, I just wanted to let you know that I was hurt by your ambivalence. It made me sad.

I moved on, I was young, free and single. I was hitting up different websites for my laughter needs, some I formed relationships with like failblog and 27/b – they made me laugh so hard, harder than you ever did, those laughs were so good. I’m sorry, I just said that to hurt you. They made me laugh, let’s leave it at that. Other sites I’d just use for the night and be gone before they updated in the morning. Sure it was shallow, cheap, degrading even, and maybe it didn’t even make me happy, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was laughing again and it felt good.

Then, after a long and exhausting laughter filled night with the Onion  do you know what, it doesn’t matter who it was – it wasn’t you, that’s all that matters. I was knackered and spent the day on the sofa watching old episodes of ER and 24 on Sky Atlantic and there you were, sandwiched between John Carter saving lives and Jack Bauer ending them, Funny or Die, coming back into my life on the tellybox. Funny or Die Presents – just hearing your name made me giddy. I allowed myself to dream a little dream – maybe we could re-capture that initial magic, I mean you’re bound to be making more of an effort if you’re going on TV aren’t you? I was only going to have to wait a fortnight to know for sure.

“Never go back.” my so-called friends told me. “They’ll only disappoint you again.” they all said, but what did they know? Nothing, they were just jealous that you were back. Back for good. Back for me.

So, I watched the excellent Game of Thrones and did my traditional pre-laughter warm up exercises (don’t want to split my sides – I know that’s supposed to be just a saying, but I’m sure it’s happened) and sat there, ready for your return. The first part of episode one raised a couple of laughs –  some lengthy and uncomfortable silences too, as you would expect after so long apart – but there was just about enough to suggest that maybe you were the same Funny or Die I fell in love with. I decided before the ad break I’d go on a second date, and it’s a good job I did, because after the break it was the same old you. The familiar you who acts like you just don’t care. You made practically no effort to make me laugh – maybe some of the floozies you met online find that whole angry drunk friend thing funny, but I just don’t get it. Still a second date was my promise and I never break a promise (unlike some websites I can mention).

The writers room at Funny or Die Presents doesn't lend itself to comedy...

The second date? Well, hopefully you don’t need me to tell you what an abject failure that was. The stilt thing, that was weird, but those twins in the Hall of Mirrors? It was like Twin Peaks but with fewer jokes. I don’t know whether you remember Twin Peaks but it wasn’t funny. Or good. Or in any way comprehensible. It was almost like you were trying to freak me out – and if you were then congratulations, it worked. I won’t be asking for a third meeting.

It’s my own fault, I can see that now. I built you up into something that you’re not. Those early days that I’ve idealised, they weren’t all laughs – in fact you were pretty hit and miss – but because there was no committment, because we’d only grab fleeting moments together, often during work, it made it somehow feel forbidden, it made the whole thing seem more fun and, and this is going to hurt: It made you seem more funny than you really were. Spending more than a few minutes in your company is now difficult to the point of excruciating. The rare smiles you manage to put on my face are quickly gone, replaced by expressions of utter confusion and bewilderment. I wanted you to be so much more, but you are what you are, and that’s an occasionally amusing but far more miss than hit sketch show – seemingly incapable of consistency or the sort of attention to detail that might foster any kind of relationship between us. I don’t hate you, I don’t even dislike you, if anything I pity you.

I genuinely wish you all the best, but it’s over between us – and I think we both know it has been for some time.

So, if it’s Funny or Die? I have to say it’s Die. sorry.

Good Luck (you’ll need it)

Rx

PS – I fear that you’ll have to think about your audience more if you ever want to be truly happy, making yourselves laugh isn’t enough.

PPS – Weird does not necessarily equal funny

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