Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Actually, Speaking Of iPlayer...

...It's bloody great. I dissed it a while back, but it turns out that was the Beta version, and was good for nothing. This version, however, has surprised me greatly. I used it last week to catch up on Phoo Action and Lily Allen and Friends, which had been cruelly truncated by our increasingly glitchy Sky+ machine, and though I had difficulty getting it to work until I had closed down all of my other windows (easier than trying to figure out what was causing the trouble using a process of elimination), once it was up and running it worked smoothly.

The same cannot be said for Lily Allen's show. She's had a pretty terrible year, made worse by the ever despicable Mail waging a typically mean and obsessive campaign against her, with elements that are simultaneously lascivious and jugdemental. No one deserves that, especially someone who seems as harmless as Lily. I'm bound to side with her, but boy was her show weak. Partially it was disappointment that the David Mitchell who appeared on the show was not the genius who wrote Ghost Atlas (yes, we both thought she would be interviewing him and not the Peep Show guy. ::blushes::), but mostly it was the depressing sight of not only grainy cameraphone clips of animals having the sex, but the little box at the bottom of the screen showing Lily giggling like a toddler watching La La the Teletubby fall over repeatedly. She found the cat sex particularly hilarious.

Guest Cuba "Daddy Day Camp" Gooding Jr., however, was not as amused by the masturbating bear.

When the guy who starred in Boat Trip is embarrassed by your show, you need to take a long look at the format. David "Not The Genius Author" Mitchell looked even more mortified, clutching his drink to his chest like some kind of talisman to ward off badly conceived TV show ideas. Lily herself seems likeable enough, but she's no Paxman or Letterman. Or Lipton. Even Chris Moyles has more intellectual heft, and he's little more than a brain-stem with a libido grafted onto it. It's the sort of show that makes Telegraph readers shake their newspaper in anger over their continental breakfast in the tea shop down the road, a subset of humanity that I suspect I now belong to (actually, I didn't get that mad. I just felt a bit crap as I wanted poor Lily to have one thing she could point at proudly this year).

Phoo Action was possibly more troublesome. It's based on a comic strip by Jamie Hewlett, someone whose appeal mystifies me. It was directed by Euros Lyn, who went overboard on a couple of episodes of Doctor Who when perhaps some subtlety was needed and as a result made a terrible hash of things (though he got better; The Girl in the Fireplace and The Runaway Bride are two of my favourite episodes). It appeared to be very wacky and filled with pointless pop culture references that would doubtless get my goat (I actually felt a little offended by the Bruce Lee references in Terry Phoo's costume). I anticipated hating it.

I ended up reasonably amused by the whole thing. Yes, Phoo's Green Hornet / Game of Death hybrid costume irked me at first, but once I found myself giggling at the Celestial Wedgie moment (complete with Bruce Lee cry of triumph), it seemed stupid to be so precious about it. Eddie Shin and Jamie Winstone were more charming than any of the Torchwood goons to a practically cosmic degree of measurement, and even though the casting of Carl Weathers was pure stunt (made worse by him not getting any good lines), it was still Carl Weathers, dammit! If I had worked on this show, I would have tried to cast him too. Anything to save him from having to save money by making stew from leftover bones.

The majority of the humour fell horribly flat, it was as self-consciously "what-BBC-thinks-is-hip" as I had feared, and it would work much better as a half hour show than it did at a very flabby hour, but some of it was terrific. Pretty much every joke involving the two Princes (especially their dorky monarchy-themed exclamations) made me laugh, and the BBC News spoofs had some terrific detail: the rapidly spinning logo, the use of Frankie's Two Tribes as background music, and best of all, the superb crawl, so packed with jokes and pop culture references (Monkey Gone To Heaven!) that I spent ages trying to catch them all. I don't know who wrote them, but I'm tempted to give credit to script editor and Masticator-muse Jessica Hynes, because she's super-duper. Euros Lyn dialled everything up as far as possible, but it suited the material and didn't piss me off anywhere near as much as I'd feared. A dancing set piece even won me over. This took me quite by surprise.

So, BBC Three's big night featured a failure and a half-success. For the Beeb, that's not bad, and definitely better than the entire run of Torchwood thus far, though certainly not enough to make me forgive them for "disappearing" the online archive of Mark and Lard sketches. A national disgrace and no one seemed to notice! Questions should be asked in Parliament. One day all of those shows will be available for all of us, and the sky will weep lotus petals out of sheer joy (not factual).

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