Monday, 20 February 2012

Noel Fielding’s indulgently unfunny show

Well might Channel 4 desperately need street hoardings pasted up everywhere to promote Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy.

Left to its own devices the show is unlikely to get many viewers because (a) it’s on Channel 4 (now perceived as a distinctly “uncool” station) and (b) it is pretentious art house rubbish.

A psychedelic mess of live action and animation, Mr Fielding’s latest offering makes the classic mistake of believing that startling presentation is a satisfactory substitute for talent. It isn’t, and particularly it is no substitute for quality writing.

Again and again British TV chiefs make the mistake of thinking that telly is mainly a visual medium and that the writing doesn’t really matter as long as you chuck in a few smutty phrases to keep the audience tittering.

Noel Fielding is playing to his strengths with this show – he is striking to look at (if somewhat gender-ambiguous) and he has good eyes.

So you’ll notice he does a lot of acting with his eyes – as do the other people involved. It’s predictable and it’s not clever enough to carry the show.

The result is a less than riveting comedy, and one which has very few of the philosophical overtones that really great comedy has in spades.

Only once did a recent episode make me laugh, when a minor and desperate character pleaded: “I’ve been to college”. Looking back, I’m not sure why I laughed, but I did, so a tiny bit of credit where it is due.

OK, a basic lesson for the clueless wallies who commission network TV comedy in Britain … it’s all about the writing!

Not nearly enough attention is paid to writing in British shows. We could learn a lot from the Americans in this respect. American TV takes writers seriously and invests in great script talent.

As far as animation goes, you can be as surreal and Fancy Dan as you like with it, but if the writing is as pisspoor as it is on this Noel Fielding outing – then it’s not going to have any cultural impact or resonance.

The reason Family Guy – an American cartoon with quite strong British cultural references – is such a monster hit is that the writing is fantastically strong, and so are the voices, aurally. The animation element, by contrast, is really quite basic.

But like I say, the visual on TV isn’t actually that important. What matters is writing of quality, and the great ideas that usually go hand in hand with it.

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