Sometimes real life imitates art. BBC2 comedy series Twenty Twelve, a spoof documentary about the preparations for London 2012 set in the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission, has just returned for a short run ahead of the Games.
It is a sublime satire, full of subtlety and sharp observation. But writer John Morton must wonder why he bothers every time he hears the news and the latest story of Olympian incompetence is revealed. The run-up to the Games has thrown up a succession of stories with plot-lines every bit as comical as the ones he has imagined. In fact, the report that it took American and Australian athletes four hours to get from Heathrow to the Olympic village after their coach drivers got lost was a direct steal from one episode when a coachload of visiting dignitaries ended up on a coach trip to nowhere with a driver who didn't know his way to the stadium. Morton may have dismissed as far-fetched the thought that security for the Games seems to be in the hands of soldiers, A-level students or youngsters who can't speak English, or that rocket launchers have been placed on the roofs of semi-detached houses in Stratford, or that the sponsors are so powerful that anyone caught in the Olympic Park eating a bag of chips will be immediately evicted. I suppose the success of spoof documentary – an increasingly popular genre, whose lineage can be traced back to the peerless Spinal Tap – does rather depend on keeping the plot just within the bounds of credulity. In the series, the magnificent Hugh Bonneville plays Ian Fletcher, the Head of Deliverance, and his stock reaction to the patched-up resolution of every catastrophe – "That's all good, then" – is exactly what you think will be being said by someone at this very moment in an Olympic meeting. Likewise, I have encountered too many PR people in my time and been encouraged to pick off the low-hanging fruit, not to recognise the person in charge of the public relations strategy in the series. Siobhan Sharpe of the PR agency Perfect Curve – the names in the programme are part of its genius – is one of the great comic inventions of our time and can rank alongside Malcolm Tucker and David Brent. The reduction of the English language to nonsense sloganeering by a certain type of PR, marketing or advertising executive has been carefully observed, and is only slightly exaggerated when it comes out of the mouth of Siobhan Sharpe. In last week's episode, she scaled the heights when responding to an idea put forward by one of her team: "If we get bandwidth on this, guys, we'll have maple syrup on our waffles from the get-go." I wonder how often, in the build-up to the Games, Lord Coe has heard something similar. In a radio interview last year, Bonneville said that Morton "took a credible situation and nudged it into the absurd".With only a week or so to go, reality is getting more absurd by the day.Reuse content