Pramface, BBC3, Thursday
Watson & Oliver, BBC2, Monday
OMG. Do we really need more jerking-off jokes, orgasm faces and drunk-schoolgirl pratfalls?
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Sunday 26 February 2012
The attractiveness of the British teenager may be as hard to detect as the Higgs boson particle, but it doesn't stop TV producers from putting more and more of them before the cameras for our inspection. Following the success of Skins and The Inbetweeners comes Pramface, a comedy of virginity, sex and pregnancy (yes, in that order) among the GCSE-sitting classes, and the discomfiture of their parents.
Sweet-faced but lecherous Jamie (Sean Michael Verey) and his conceited babe-magnet friend Mike (Dylan Edwards) are 16, have just finished their exams and are anxious to crash a party thrown by cooler and more grown-up schoolkids. "There may be scenes of a sexual nature," confides Mike, who wears green shirts with Harry Hill collars, sprays Lynx in his underpants and has made a shag-along soundtrack on his iPhone that ends with the theme to Top Gear. Elsewhere, pretty, 18-year-old A-leveller Laura (Scarlett Alice Johnson) has been grounded for smoking dope. She has a turn of phrase that shocks her anxious parents, Anna Chancellor and Angus Deayton: "It's not as if you found me snorting coke or straddling my pimp"; "To you the world's just one big fucking naughty step isn't it?" Naturally she escapes the prison of home by falling out of the window and at the posh party she drunkenly kisses Jamie. Minutes later, they are dancing the blanket hornpipe on a leopardskin throw in someone's bedroom, while Jamie's girlfriend Beth attempts to crawl out the door.
Weeks later, along with her A-levels, Laura gets another result: she's pregnant. She has no recollection of her inamorata, only a phone number. When they arrange to meet in a café, she makes for the promising-looking chap sitting by himself, but gets it wrong: the father of her child is the geeky kid at the other table. Oh, no! He's 16, she's 18 – an unbridgeable gap – she has a croissant in the microwave and their young lives are blighted for ever. Or are they?
Chris Reddy dreamt up Pramface and wrote the script, directed by Daniel Zeff. It has nice touches: when Laura rings the number scrawled on a note, to say, "We slept together and now I'm pregnant", she dials the wrong number and her voice is beamed to the phone-speaker of a car driven by a startled bourgeois with his family. But it's all so derivative. Do we need any more jerking-off jokes, orgasm faces, drunk-girl pratfalls? There's a deal too much Americana here too: the plot's straight from Knocked Up; the party scenes of interchangeable babes owe a lot to Beverly Hills 90210; Laura's taut family supper echoes American Beauty. Lacking the rude conviction of The Inbetweeners, it comes over as The Hand-Me-Downers.
The newest thing in comedy sketch shows – and doesn't that very phrase feel antediluvian? – is Watson & Oliver, well known to Edinburgh Fringe audiences. They're an appealing duo. Ingrid Oliver has a thrillingly low voice – Fiona Bruce meets Victoria Coren – she's a dead ringer for Myleene Klass (who is duly ridiculed), and she can really act. Lorna Watson is blond, brittle and has to work harder for laughs. Their opening gambit was a direly old-fashioned bit of sub-Morecambe and Wise before-the-show backchat, but, once they settled down, their sketches were inventive and unusual. In a spoof of a TV Jane Austen serial, the mob-capped duo tittered like six-year-olds about pin cushions to a pair of bored Mr Darcys, then switched abruptly to double entendre. ("Our dance cards – we eagerly await the filling of our slots by two special gentlemen.") A Victoria Wood-style pastiche of 1950s ladies' kitchen conversation – all pinnies and hair-rollers – was surreally punctuated by Watson's response-appropriate eyebrows. A greasy-spoon café became a symphony of shouts and orders in which everyone called everyone else "darling" – "Cup o'tea, darlin'?" "Keep the change, my darlin'" – until someone silenced the room by saying "Love". In what is clearly meant to be the show's signature sketch, the girls do their impression of Prince William and Kate tucked up in bed, unable to find anything to talk about except their wedding day. But couldn't they have found a better punchline subject than Pippa Middleton's over-prodded rump?
The best sketch imagined two Playboy bunnies squeaking competitively about how pink their living quarters were, how appealing their fake boobs, how delightful their lives, until they were summoned to cuddle up to the saurian Hefner. Between retchings, they competed as to which had a better excuse not to fulfil this noisome duty. It was a gift of a subject to these two funny, appealing women, and they seized it with unladylike glee. I look forward to seeing a lot more of them.
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