4 items from 2015
The gloriously self-mocking comedy is a sign of the corporation’s maturity. But in the current climate, it could be a godsend for detractors
It was with joy that a month ago I settled down to watch the second series of W1A, John Morton’s painfully brilliant comedy about the internal workings of the BBC: shown, needless to say, on the BBC. I spent 2013-14 researching the corporation, spending more time inside Broadcasting House than in the Guardian’s own offices. (A line in the show, uttered by a BBC media correspondent, describes Broadcasting House as a “highly secretive, some might say frankly incomprehensible building” – which chimed with me.)
During that period I became habituated to its panopticon-like layout, its meeting rooms emblazoned with images of TV favourites (there’s no Frankie Howerd room, as W1A has it, but there is a Captain Mainwaring room). Alan Yentob did seem always »
- Charlotte Higgins
Over to New Broadcasting House and W1A (BBC2) where it’s a new day and Head of Values Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) is chairing an important meeting (obviously) of the Way Ahead taskforce. It’s about the forthcoming visit of Prince Charles, which takes on extra significance in the context of impending royal charter renewal. Also on the agenda: the possibility of the BBC losing Wimbledon, to rival broadcaster Sk…beep. Which is why Head of Brand Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes) is there, to say “so here’s the thing with this”, “it’s a no-brainer”, “Ok cool” etc and then to go away to play mash-up tennis with her team at Perfect Curve.
On another day, but in the same place (the Frankie Howerd meeting room »
- Sam Wollaston
But with a new series opener in which a high-level management power struggle starts simmering alongside the usual japes, hi-jinks and gaffes at Broadcasting House, the BBC's self-flagellating satire is at last hitting its stride.
Hugh Bonneville's still the star of the show as Ian Fletcher, keeping a sharp focus on charter renewal as his contemporaries in the Way Ahead Task Force fall over themselves (almost literally at one point) to get one over on their professional rivals. There's whispers of a new senior post at stake, and everyone seems to have their eye on it.
Following his fall from grace at the end of the last series after a newspaper sting exposing both his handsome salary and close relationship with his former Olympic Deliverance Commission Pa Sally, »
Amid all its troubled antiheroes and fatalistic gunplay, the golden age of television has been desperately short of one thing: trash. Not your common or garden, lowest common denominator, mass market, light entertainment crap – switch on your TV after 5pm on any given Saturday and you’ll practically drown in the stuff – but knowing, high-drama, campy trash. Trash such as Footballers’ Wives and Desperate Housewives.
We’ve come close – Scandal is clearly preposterous but takes itself slightly too seriously, and House of Cards perpetually seems seconds away from turning into a full-scale Frankie Howerd parody of itself – but it has always been hard to shake the feeling that most modern showrunners have been too busy eyeing up prestige to fully commit to trash. »
- Stuart Heritage
4 items from 2015
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