television Pulp Video (BBC2)

reviews: Jasper Rees on the pros and cons of making jokes about burgers
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The Independent Culture
In the opening sketch of Pulp Video, a moustachioed ex-Yugoslav stands before the charred rubble of his flame-grilled home, listing the disastrous consequences of war that he cannot mend. "But," he concludes exultantly, "I can change my burger to a Burger King burger." This is a sort of achievement - a joke without taste with a punchline involving food without taste.

A couple of sketches later, a doctor wheeling a patient towards the operating theatre reels off a series of numbers to a nurse which turn out to be orders from a burger chain. Later, a pair of aliens walk out of a restaurant for Martians because they'd prefer a burger. Is a wider picture emerging?

Pulp Video arrives under the umbrella of "Comic Asides" (BBC2), the series of pilots which gave The High Life its first outing. This came from the makers of Naked Video, birthplace of Rab C Nesbitt, whose third series is being paraded in the preceding slot. The idea is to produce another durable bloom, but hit and miss is inevitable and, with so many writers assigned to one half hour, so is repetition.

For the record, and to do the statisticians' work for them, Pulp Video repeated itself in three areas: there were three burger gags, two about gays, and three about DJs, one of them a sophisticated Reservoir Dogs spoof in which the Michael Madsen character lops off his own ears, not his victim's, as Danny Baker babbles over "Stuck in the Middle with You".

A surfeit of fast-food jokes was apposite, because sketch shows like this thrive on rapid- delivery rejigging of up-to-the-minute ads, eking mirth out of new road signs, reslanting fresh televisual images. Bruce Grobbelaar, caught on grainy home video, dives the wrong way when lobbed a bung. Two blokes with binoculars argue over a sighting of a puma in a tree; one of them is convinced it's a Reebok: cut to shot of shoe resting on branch. In each case, the joke is grounded in famous footage (and, in the latter, footwear).

OK, so maybe the "Gillian Taylforthcam", which offers a groin-eye view of fellatio, came based on an ageing story, but some jokes grow old more slowly than others. Some sketches, like the lurching monologue by a kind of Nesbitt junior, had no such excuse for arthritis. Others, like the image of a suicidal Mr Blobby hanging by the neck from a tree, were over too quickly to be painful.

Much the best sketch lampooned a confession scene from Cracker, which offered proof that the classier drama yields the classier parody. This is why French and Saunders, who do clever takeoffs of movies, are more heavyweight satirists than Smith and Jones, who do the same thing to mere advertisements. Getting laughs out of commercials is a shallow pursuit, and not much of a guide to future promise.