With the news that the channel will exist only in Internet form from 2015, this year’s Comedy Feeds could potentially act as a glimpse into the future for BBC Three where commissioners premiere pilots online to gauge audience reaction before committing to a full series.
The initiative has already introduced some exceptional new talent to the UK comedy scene with Impractical Jokers, People Just Do Nothing and the upcoming Nick Helm’s Heavy Entertainment, but are any of the new batch deserving of following them to a full series?
Here are the five best pilots from this year’s Comedy Feeds.
This double act sitcom stars Tom Rosenthal and Naz Osmanoglu as two slacker flatmates who escape the boredom of the everyday by imagining their mundane lives through the prism of TV.
Flat TV combines the unconventional forth-wall-breaking style of Peep Show by lampooning current TV trends (rolling news channels, Geordie Shore and Come Dine With Me are all cleverly dissected here) with the dark farce of The Inbetweeners that is engineered by the characters’ desperate attempts to avoid social embarrassment – in this case, Tom (Rosenthal) tries to impress the proverbial girl next door with a nice face by throwing a dinner party.
While the TV fantasies may initially be distracting, as Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong found in their use of POV angles, Rosenthal and Osmanoglu are adroit comic actors who have a heartening chemistry that gives the show a gooey moral centre: “This just in: I miss my friend.”
Ashley Walters and Adam Deacon play a pair of average beat cops who are dragged into a frightening world of crime, violence and corruption when the body of a young woman (is there any other kind of dead body in a cop show?) lands on their patrol car.
Written by Thomas Eccleshore and Tom Joseph, In Deep takes aim at hardboiled crime dramas in a tongue-in-cheek fashion that is redolent of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang with its meta-lunacy and a narrator who loves to stop the film to make snarky remarks (“Who keeps a gun in a pizza box?”).
There are as many laughs as there are moments of heart-stopping tension (one scene sees the boys pose as gay lovers to confront a possible assassin) and in many ways In Deep is the most ‘series ready’ of the lot.
The only problem is that it has already been done before, and by the BBC no less. Mathew Baynton and James Corden’s The Wrong Mans beat In Deep to the punch late last year with a similar format of comedic everymen confront the criminal underworld and it’s hard to see commissioners finding room for both shows in their schedules.
Otherworld is remarkably hard to describe. There are notes of The Mighty Boosh in its mix of the mystical and the mundane, a touch of Yonderland in its use of sardonic puppets and more than a dash of This is Jinsy in its inexplicable oddness, but really it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Whatever it is, Otherworld is incredibly funny through its sheer foolishness. In it, an alien parasite and his reluctant human host takes us on a whistle-stop tour of a parallel world that introduces us to two pandas caught up in an inter-species love triangle and a crime boss’ cat with a hairball problem, amongst other oddities.
With such a sketch-like structure the humour is inevitably scattershot (the retelling of Legally Blonde from the point of view of a sex doll is needlessly crass) and it needs an overarching narrative to connect the disparate scenes together, but if the creators can iron out these minor kinks Otherworld could become the next big surrealist comedy.
Yet another flatshare sitcom (why are these so popular on the Comedy Feeds this year?), Vodka Diaries is about four female housemates (plus one dopey boyfriend) trying to figure out how to live together in spite of their opposing personalities.
Like Fresh Meat, Vodka Diaries brings what would be frustrating archetypes to life with sharp writing and warm performances, especially from Aisling Bea whose chain-smoking hedonist steals the show and all the best lines (“The musical terrorist”), capturing the grotesque, sexually thwarted humour of twenty-somethings experiencing responsibility for the first time.
But what makes this work so well is the way the humour is balanced by brief moments of pathos, such as when Bea’s character is kicked out of the house for sleeping with her housemate’s 16-year-old brother only for her to rush back moments later when she realises she can’t survive alone.
Apparently a YouTube sensation, Jenny Bede plays pastiches of well-known music personalities in this razor-sharp parody of TV pop shows.
From the young, slightly-punk presenter who strains to avoid the vintage light bulbs dangling artfully from the ceiling to a brilliant take on Prince’s recent spate of secret gigs that sees the Purple Rain-singer pop up in all manner of daft locations like a deranged stalker in a creepy horror movie, Bede displays a sharp eye for sending up the music industry to induce guffaws.
The only doubt I have about the future of this show is whether Bede can stretch her short sketches into full episodes for an entire series.