Babylon, series 1, episode 2: Highly entertaining even if it misses the mark at times

The mixture of highbrow and lowbrow comedy might sit uneasily together but it's still very funny

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The Independent Culture

Tonight it’s all about Liz’s cocaine-fuelled brainwave “The Metwork”: the force’s own news channel.

Just picture it for a second, The Metropolitan Police offering its own brand of news: news bulletins on kettling and taserings coming straight from the mouths of the people who have carried them out. Impartial reporting at its finest.

It’s the basis for a biting piece of satire but sadly we’ll have to use our imaginations - or leave that one for Charlie Brooker and Black Mirror.

Babylon presents us with this powerful idea and then disappointingly puts it to one side. Instead the majority of the episode focuses on busting the Mayor of London’s son and a cop about to crack.

 

We’re thrown into a grittier, British version of Police Academy - and that’s where this series falls down. Babylon is attempting to be two things at once: satirical comedy and police spoof.

At times it’s razor sharp and reaches the heights of The Thick of It. The rapid fire dialogue keeps viewers on their toes – turn away for a second and you’ll miss a joke.

But at other moments it completely misses the point. The puerile Welsh police officer, who constantly makes crass jokes, needs to be repeatedly smacked with a truncheon until he stops with the innuendo. It might be fine for something like The Inbetweeners but this lowest common denominator humour feels out of place here.

Although the comedy is not quite there, some of the casting is brilliant. James Nesbitt nails it as the hard-bitten head of the Metropolitan police. Token American Brit Marling gives a great turn as the ballsy PR woman Liz Garvey. Adam Deacon too is surprisingly memorable, having previously played a slew of gangsters.

Whether this is an attempt to create a new genre of comedy drama or merely merging two existing types of comedy, Babylon still needs time to find its feet.

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