Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review: Pramface 1.1 and White Van Man 2.1

So it happens that there are two series of comedies, aimed at my age range, premiering on BBC Three tonight. Might as well review them.

As lame as its advertising? No, but it comes close.
Pramface -1.1: "Like Narnia But Sexy"

I hate the Inbetweeners. I detest it. It's juvenile to the extreme, and paints an extremly negative perception of British youth that, as a member of said demographic, I find as distorted as Kevin and Perry. I had hoped that Pramface, with its excellent cast, would avoid the trap that writers for the teenage demographic do and not fall into this juvenile stupidity. And, like usual when I describe my hopes and dreams, they failed spectacularly. It has the potential to be something good, but Pramface fell into so many stereotypes and clich├ęs that it felt, at times, unbearable.
     After completing his final exam of Year 11, naive Jamie Prince (Sean Michael Verey) was led by his friend Mike (Dylan Edwards) to crash a party, with the intent to lose their virginity - against their friend Beth's (the wonderful Yasmin Paige, who is the only sympathetic character) advice. Meanwhile, posh girl Laura Derbyshire (Scarlett Alice Johnson) escaped from her grounding to attend the party, where she got spectacularly drunk. Beth arrived at the party in time to conveniently get trapped in a room while drunk Laura seduced and bonked Jamie. The next morning Jamie leaves his number and we fastforward six weeks, where Laura finds out that she is pregnant. Upon meeting him, she is shocked is to find out that he is only 16.
      All the characters were pretty much blank caricatures. Jamie showed that he was.. pleasant, but as a protagonist he wasn't very strong. His friend Mike was almost an exact copy of Misfits' Nathan, except with less wit and charm. There were good turns by Laura's parents, played by Angus Deayton and Anna Chancellor, but their segments were painfully short. The only character that I felt actually worked was Yasmin Paige's Beth, who through some awful writing was turned into this incredibly powerful sympathetic figure even when she was being a stereotype of morally-concerned youth.
     There were a few giggles now and then from Pramface, but for me it is fundamentally problematic because of its attitude towards its audience. BBC Three usually avoids ripping off other shows, and this felt like its inspiration was ripped straight from Channel Four - and not in any of the good ways. The potential is clearly there, but I need a lot more before I'll love Pramface as I do BBC Three's other output.

Emma Keeley and Liz Brown
The Girls have a more prominent role in this series.
White Van Man - 2.1: "Charity"

White Van Man is a comedy series written by stand-up comedian Adrian Poynton, following the comedic adventures of straight-man handyman Will Mellor and his friends Joel Fry, Georgia Moffet and Naomi Bentley. Despite my low expectations, the first series proved to be incredibly good and funny in a way that British TV hasn't seen in a long time. The series excells from its quaint character comedy blended against the absurdity of modern life, and parodying some of the stereotypes associated with handymen.
     After an organisational fuck-up, Ollie (Will Mellor) is left with the task of fixing up a house due to be occupied by the Mayor and a group of orphans. While Ollie tries to find a way to afford the renovations, facing bureaucracy along the way, he discovers that assistant Darren (Joel Fry) has maxed out his credit card. Ollie's love interest, ambitious small-time businesswoman Emma (Georgia Moffat) accidentally hires envious friend Liz (Naomi Bentley). The two end up in compeition over tips, as Ollie is forced to sell his father's old possessions. Stretched, they find their father's old canalboat and decide to sell that. Ollie's dad Tony (Clive Mantle) returns off of Holiday and is furious, going out of his way to try and get the boat back. Emma and Liz go to the Home and start fighting. Ollie, discovering that they've wrecked the home, is incredibly angry to the point of despair. He returns on the day of the opening to find that his embarrassed friends have done the work for him overnight.
     The dynamic between the central handymen is fundamentally unchanged between the series, with Will Mellor as the good-natured but often mis-led straightman Ollie and Trollied's Joel Fry as nigh-insane assistant Darren. The new dynamic between Emma and Liz was the most interesting addition to the format, with them fighting over Ollie, but it provided the episode's final reveal that much more bang. Charity ended up being a brilliant start to the second series, as hilarious and heartwarming as it ever was.


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