So I watched a new comedy on BBC2 tonight. Actually, it might have been on for a few weeks, as I haven’t really been paying attention to Monday telly recently. But yeah, Feel The Force is currently on, and isn’t that great.
A comedy about a pair of inept police officers (but get this – the twist is they’re women! Genius), this is very much Chucklevision for grown-ups (I use the term loosely). Tonight, our incompetents (apparently named Bobbins and Frank) failed a million times to apprehend the Most Wanted Man in Glasgow and sighed and said ‘bloody’ a lot.
Their boss doesn’t like them, and they have straight-laced colleagues who are mildly miffed by them. They got charged with looking after the boss’ 7-year-old daughter, who wanted to go to the zoo. Well, she went to the zoo –and got arrested because Frank (I think) told her to shoplift. I know, professionals behaving irresponsibly for cheap comedic effect – a novel concept indeed.
I can’t say I ever saw The Thin Blue Line (I could, but I’d be lying, and let’s be honest –I wouldn’t admit it if I had), but it all seems a bit similar. Actually, I think the boss in The Thin Blue Line was played by Rowan Atkinson and therefore incompetent himself, so it won’t have been exactly the same.
What I’m trying to say is this wasn’t very good. Maybe I’m just too jaded by bad comedy, but I can’t really get behind a programme based around everything happening because of idiocy. Granted, idiocy was at the heart of Fawlty Towers, but it was a kind of really smart idiocy. Basil was a clever bloke deep down, and it was always some basic character flaw which saw to his regular undoing.
Similarly, Bilko was an intelligent character. There was always something small (or not so small) which did him in, whether it was his own bumbling underlings, fate, or his immense greed (or all of the above). In Seinfeld, the characters came off badly more often than not, but that was regularly due to their separate greedy, hate-filled plans criss-crossing and interfering with each other.
These great comedy characters weren’t just morons. What was so funny was seeing how their machinations would be undermined, how they would contribute to their own undoing and how they would react (be it Frasier Crane’s eyes popping out of his head, or a simple ‘another fine mess you’ve got me into’). It’s just not that funny if every event in the programme is triggered by your protagonists being stupid.
What you’re left with in cases like this is a deadheaded inevitability to everything. There is no suspense, and no anticipation of reaction; you know every act will end in failure and that it will result in a ‘bloody hell!’ and a telling-off.
Fortunately, not all is lost. In a wise move, Michelle Gomez was cast as Sally Bobbins and she is fantastic. She has been fantastic every time I’ve seen her, so it’s not much of a surprise. She was great in the sadly missed Book Group as the incredibly insecure footballer’s wife Janice McCann, and has found deserved fame more recently in a star turn as The Green Wing’s deranged liaison officer Sue White.
Gomez, complete with her bizarre facial expressions, great physical comedy and general loveliness, essentially carried this show on her own. Seriously. As she and the other character were pretty much constantly on screen, I cannot imagine how dull proceedings might have been with a lesser actor in charge. I swear, she is the best actor currently on a British programme.
Actually, not quite all would be lost without Gomez. There was one funny bit, where the four main police officers (plus seven-year-old) suddenly started fantasising outside a pole-dancing club about their ideal pole-dancer. Cue Bobbins dreaming of the middle-aged Police Chief, Frank of a male officer, the male officer in question fantasising about his (male) partner, and the male partner fantasising about his boss. Who, let’s face it, is attractive. The girl dreamt of a pony, as I suppose they do.
Not the greatest achievement in comedy ever (or even tonight, as the Have I Got News For You repeat was funnier), then. The bright side is that I am now more confident about getting the greenlight on my own ideas.