Living in the UK I can quite unashamedly say that I am blessed with the generally fantastic services of the BBC, and better still the wonderful iPlayer. I pay my license fee and am more than content to do so for a standard of programming in television and radio which generally puts out enough to keep me contented while I whittle away on some boring and repetitive task at work.
Comedy comes high on my list of Beeb-based distractions, and for all the complaints regarding the perpetual broadcast of vapid crap like Two Packets and more recently the Horne and Corden Debacle there is some at-least-half-amusing gems that just sneak through. Some find their way into a whole series like Dan Clark’s How Not To Live Your Life. Others like the brilliant surreal Snuff Box, or 15 Storeys High will be commissioned for a series, perhaps two, but then end up unceremoniously buried in the arse-end of the schedules and never mentioned again. They inevitably end up finding a cult following on the interwebs, but it’s still a cruel disservice by the Beeb to the brains behind these shows.
A third breed will remain stuck in the realm of the single one-off pilot, and it is in this strangely cultivated forest of saplings that something truly new and leftfield can be found.
The flag first has to be raised for the truly brilliant Ketch! and HIRO-PON Get It On, a tale of friendship and alienation told from the perspective of two mohawked Japanese street performers. It first caught my attention on the iPlayer by billing itself as a silent comedy. On BBC3! Hard to believe I know, but there it was. Coming from a tradition of just larking of the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe, the show was more comic mime than it was Keaton/Chaplin style slapstick, but it won me over with some brilliantly sweet characters and visual trickery which left me truly baffled. In an age where all inventiveness and camera trickery has been relegated to the backwaters of Youtube it is really refreshing to see some genuinely stunning acts of visual comedy. Their Backwards? sketch alone will live long beyond this so far singular pilot, yet it’s hard to imagine how they could stretch the concept beyond this one off. But still, more of the same would be more than welcome in the sea of bland otherwise known as BBC3.
The second lost pilot I want to highlight is Vidiotic, which was carefully buried at 02:15 last Wednesday morning. While my sleeping patterns are fortunately not quite so erratic anymore, I only came across it by virtue of the anytime/anywhere nature of iPlayer. And I’m so glad I did, because it’s brilliant in a delightfully cheap and naff way. To say shoestring would imply some semblance of a budget which was barely present, but its cheap nature gives an odd grounding. Being about two schmoes working a rundown video rental store, it had me in the first 30 seconds when I noticed that one of them was reading ‘Shite Unsound’ while wearing a MUSELY t-shirt. Cheap gags that felt as though pitched squarely at me. How could I not be hooked?
What followed was a rambling stumbling sitcom-cum-sketch show that took every chance to lampoon the nonsense of the film industry, and in particular the BBC’s rather glitzy-yet-braindead coverage of it. Highlights included voxpops for the fictional To The Manor Bourne and short film review asides on shlock horror films Body Melt (starring Harold Bishop!) and Shark Attack 3:Megalodon (starring Cpt Jack Harkness!) Both awful films simply and efficiently shot to pieces. A voice cameo from Andrew Marr and a guitar solo by Biff from the Back to the Future films also added to the shows slightly surreal edge.
I can easily see them pitching the show as a film reviews meets Clerks in the UK. ‘Think Peep Show but with films!’ they would no doubt say. Which is to perhaps over egg the pudding a touch, but hey a little ambition is no bad thing. I guess coming in with no preconceptions worked in the show’s favour, and without being too keen all I can say is give it a punt. Its kinda rubbish, but check it out on iPlayer, give them a few hits and maybe they can be granted some cash money to actually make a show of it. Why not? Rather more of this than more Packets of Crisps at two on a Wednesday morning.