Tag Archive: best tv shows


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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Here is a list of my favourite comedy shows (all of which were running in 2011 and 2012). If you love nothing more than relaxing in front of the TV watching a top comedy show, see whether you agree with my selections. The countdown starts here…


5. New Girl – Channel 4New Girl TV Show Cast with Zooey Deschanel


There is something about Zooey Deschanel that makes her look so adorable. Her quaint acting style allows her to be extremely pleasant on screen, no matter what stance she is adopting in this funny show. The first series was a real success, and Zooey manages to outshine her male peers despite being outnumbered by them. And the cast that acts with her is not poor in the slightest. Indeed, it is full of very talented actors all of whom do a very good job; Zooey just seems to light up the screen. The cringe-worthy jokes are absolutely hilarious, the awkward moments abound, and the show does not take itself too seriously. There are some drawbacks, because there is a lack of action at times, and occasionally the focus on the principal characters means that nothing actually happens in an episode barring a couple of jibes. Moreover, the actress who plays Cece, although she interacts with the others well, is outperformed by her friend Jess (Deschanel) and occasionally reverts to the ‘sex icon’ role  (for Schmidt, definitely, but also for male spectators – trust me, I’ve witnessed this first hand watching with friends!). Also – and this is a gripe I have about a wide variety of American sitcoms and tv shows about a group of friends – the apartment in which these low-earning companions abide is absolutely, ridiculously massive. Clearly, it needs to be bright and well-lit to create an upbeat tone for TV, but it’s quite unbelievable. However, all in all, the dynamic between the friends is absolutely top notch, and the boys will make you laugh out loud. Jess is still the star of this show, though, with such gems as “I was going for like a hot farmer’s daughter kind of thing, like, oh, I’m gonna go milk my cows” and “So head’s up, Paul’s coming tonight. And I just wanted to tell you that I’m gonna tap him like a maple tree. I’m gonna search him for some syrups. I’m gonna be having sex with him.” Pure genius. Each episode whizzes by (they are quite short) with such speed that one can easily watch 3 or 4 on the trot. A great show that is set only to get better with more episodes.
4. Twenty Twelve – BBC 2

Twenty Twelve BBC TV Show Cast


‘Twenty Twelve’ didn’t arouse too much interest from the press or from viewers when it first aired more than a year before the London 2012 Olympics were set to start. However, it has now risen to fame. This show satirises the largely shoddy preparations for the Olympics that start on July 27. It’s playful use of language (ridiculing the common and mostly meaningless expressions used by managers such as ‘So that’s all good’, ‘all good going forward’ that Ian Fletcher repeats time and again. Siobhan Sharpe, of PR company Perfect Curve, is a fantastically cast character who symbolises the vapid and vacuous ideas of such ‘creative’ enterprises! Her speech is once again delivered
to perfection, and the show demonstrates how words and talk can roll on for many hours without any kind of productive action ever occurring. And yet, in episode 5 of series 2, Siobham is tasked with the job of coming up with a name for the travel advice pack for the Olympics.

After a lot of stupid and utterly nonsensical chit-chat over the name, suddenly she and her team hit on something: Way To Go. It works – and the double meaning is perfect. So, the show also seems to imply, these types of people exist and prosper not because they are necessarily good at what they do but because they have a lucky imaginative spark that grabs something from nothing. Not the type of show that will make you laugh out loud at every second, but there are some absolutely brilliant moments. David Tenant provides the narration and it is spot on – his Scottish accent is the icing on the cake that really works with the mood of the programme. You might not believe it, but one of the disasters that was joked about in the show, that of the Olympic clock faltering, actually happened in real life – less than 24 hours after the brand new clock was unveiled in London!

3. The Big Bang Theory – E4

The Big Bang Theory tv show cast


The Big Bang Theory is a fabulous show and for a long, long time was my favourite out there. The jokes come thick and fast, and the dialogue is smooth and lively. The star is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, whose magnificent quips and satirical remarks are absolutely perfect. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this show is its revolutionising portrayal of nerds. Fan clubs have been set up around the world in support of the physics professors (and of Howard, who only has a Master’s Degree :D), and many fans wear shirts in the style of Sheldon or with quotes from the series. Some of Sheldon’s best include his response to Penny saying that she is crying because she is stupid: ‘Well that’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid and that makes me sad’, or ‘A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a drink.

The bartender replies “for you, no charge”’. This show has actually taught me a great deal that I didn’t previously know, such as the number 73 as the greatest number in existence (“The best number is 73. Why? 73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror (37) is the 12th and its mirror (21) is the product of multiplying 7 and 3. … In binary, 73 is a palindrome, 1001001 which backwards is 1001001”). Yeah, that’s Sheldon for you. But isn’t that so cool? It’s so much better than Hollyoaks or other mindless soaps – The Big Bang Theory strikes the perfect balance between knowing that we watch TV to chill out – and thus it is peppered with jokes and awkward moments – and stimulating creative thought – hence the interesting conundrums and paradoxes. The characters are well-written and developed, but my favourite after Sheldon has to be Raj. He is unable to talk to women except when drunk (I know, it gets pretty hilarious), and tries desperately not to let his friends tease him. He comes out with some of the funniest lines in the entire show, so make sure you watch out for some of his best. Could definitely have been higher than 3rd on another day.

2. Modern Family – Sky 1

Modern Family cast holding up sign with name of tv show

Modern Family is one of the funniest shows on TV at the moment, and I can watch the same episode more than once without getting bored. This show is a mockumentary that follows 3 modern families (how did you guess?) and their daily ups and downs. The Dunfy family works best on screen as the social dynamics between Phil, the fun-loving dad, and Claire, his more dominant and controlling wife, is the perfect recipe for comedy. The children act their roles beautifully, too. Cam and Mitchell, the gay couple who have an adopted daughter, Lily, are also brilliant, and it is almost impossible to believe that the actor Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cam, is not gay in real life. Once again, the interaction between the two men in this family is wonderful, and the jokes are sharp and witty. Each episode has an overriding moral, which might sound a little crass, but in actual fact the show is very down-to-earth and it appears that everyone on set must have had a massive laugh during filming. There is genuine chemistry here, and the success of this programme is testament to its strong characterisation and faultless casting. A little snippet of the type of quips you will encounter:


Alex: “- So dumb guys go for dumb girls AND smart guys go for dumb girls. What do the smart girls get?”
Hayley: “- Cats, mostly.”

1. Friday Night Dinner – Channel 4

Friday Night Dinner family picture

This may come as a surprise to some, because Friday Night Dinner has not achieved anywhere near as much critical attention as its peers in this selection. However, this is without a doubt my favourite comedy show on TV at the moment. With Simon Bird (who you may remember from The Inbetweeners) and Tamsin Grieg, alongside Paul Ritter who plays the comical dad of the family, the relationships in this show are entertaining and vibrant. It follows one family (Tamsin the mother, and Adam (Bird) and Jonny (Tom Rosenthal) as the two brothers) on one friday night for each episode. The hilarity ensues because of various amusing events that unfold in each instalment, and the laughter (much like The Inbetweeners) arises as much from the quick jibes as from the unfortunate situations in which the characters periodically find themselves. But, in contrast to perhaps its most obvious precursor show, Friday Night Dinner rarely resorts to crude, sexual gags. There is occasional swearing, but the show does not need to be rude in order to be funny – which it is, without a shadow of a doubt. The jokes come at a rapid pace, so that one laugh moulds into the next and, at the climactic moments in each episode, you may well find yourself literally clutching at your sides as they are
about to split. The writing is first class, and the characters are interesting and compelling. Bird is excellent in the leading role, and Grieg similarly suits her role to a tee, but the stand-out performance is from Paul Ritter. The stereotypical absent-minded dad, who advises his son Adam about getting a girlfriend (or, as he puts it, discovering the ‘females’), is absolutely uproarious, and each episode may well leave you wanting more. Only 6 in the first series, but another set is due to arrive in October of this year. Mark my words, this show will be one hell of a success.

Image sources: New Girl, Twenty Twelve, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Friday Night Dinner

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