Twenty Twelve began as a late night show that did not arouse too much critical attention, but in some corners it was loved and admired to such an extent that it was moved to BBC2. It’s new home has given it the vantage point from which to launch into super popularity, and it is now a regular ‘featured’ show on this network’s iPlayer. Avid fans of the show (myself included) will find themselves somewhat disoriented with the realisation that Twenty Twelve has this week come to an end, at least until the next time (!) that London, England, manages to host the Olympics. But why has Twenty Twelve achieved such success, and is it really worth setting up in front of the laptop to re-visit the past series whilst the real London 2012 Olympics get underway?


Cast of BBC2 Show Twenty Twelve

Twenty Twelve establishes itself as a mockumentary with a sharp note of wit, but it is never biting or overly critical. Its quality comes in the often light-hearted portrayal of mishaps that reach a level at once hilarious and calamitous. The humour, likewise, arises not from slapstick or coarse swearing (a technique to which too many comedians in our present age have reverted), but rather from side-splitting verbal malapropisms from Siobhan Sharpe and the ridiculous positivity (even in the face of catastrophic disaster) from Head of Deliverance, Ian Fletcher. These two, played by Jessica Hynes and Hugh Bonneville respectively, are the stars of the show, and the jokes come thick and fast when they are communicating. The show portrays the possibility of exchanging several words without ever attaining a productive answer to a debate, and the scenes are made so amusing predominantly because of the different wavelengths that the characters are on. Siobhan’s repeated defence of ‘Here’s what we’re gonna do here’, and ‘You know’, two filler phrases that mean absolutely nothing at all, emphasises the possibilities of language to hide, rather than reveal, meaning. Indeed, when, in the penultimate episode of Series 2, when the acorn required to plant a tree that will grow into a symbol of London 2012’s commitment to sustainability, Siobhan turns to the first of these phrases for a comical 10 times in a row, the futility of her ‘fillers’ is illustrated perfectly. This is because the acorn is missing, and Siobhan is forced to use a chocolate instead. This is the kind of clever, astute humour you can expect throughout the series.

The characters are, in general, very well developed. Sara Pascoe, who plays a mock-creative-alternative employee in Siobhan’s PR enterprise, Perfect Curve, could have been better, however. Her stand-up on Channel 4’s ‘Stand Up For The Week’ is infinitely better than what can be found in Twenty Twelve, and it appears that this is not the role for her. Whereas in Channel’s 4’s show, she is strong and powerful and often outshines her male companions on stage, in the BBC’s mockumentary her jokes are very hit and miss. By contrast, Jessica Hynes incorporates the pointlessness of these creative-types perfectly. She is scripted beautifully, a mocking manipulation of creative’s use of language (starting every single answer to a question with a long ‘So…’), and her hilarious ‘advice’ to the others (to Kay Hope: ‘You’ve got to be cool… you’ve got to be out there… and if that’s not in your head… maybe you’re in the wrong head…’) embodies the often disastrous Olympic preparations in the real world.

Hugh Bonneville has been criticised in some corners for not being funny enough, but these commentators are probably just too fond of him in his role in ‘Downton Abbey’. Bonneville plays his role excellently, and both his board meetings and his interactions with Siobhan are entertaining beyond measure. He sticks to a positive outlook (‘That’s all good, then’, ‘moving forward’, ‘going forward’), which ridicules those books on managerial tips and tricks that always talk about motion and advancement to keep optimistic. The Yorkshire tones of Nick Jowett (played by Vincent Franklin) provide a voice of reason in the board room, a voice that stands out amidst a sea of truisms and pleonasms that help no-one. In the penultimate episode of Series 2, Nick even stops Ian just after he has talked about ‘moving forward’, reminding him that if things continue in the same vein, the only direction they will be going is backwards.

This is a fantastic comedy show that is full of laughs, and the relationships built up between the characters are simply wonderful. Check it out if you get the chance, and make sure to watch some of it during the actual 2012 Olympics. It has already predicted some of the hilarious mistakes that have been made during the preparation period, so perhaps it will have foreseen other calamities! 5 out of 5, without a doubt.

What do you think, and who is your favourite character?

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