I saw the trailers for this, and thought it looked pretty dire. I didn’t plan to watch it at all (as a result of this), but then I saw Eamonn Forde tweeting the following about it on twitter: “Brilliant. Switch on BBC1 now to see David Walliams do both of his comedy accents”, and “Aren’t foreigners funny? Look – they even talk funny!” Mr Forde is pretty great on twitter (follow him @Eamonn_Forde ), particularly when commentating on TV. So I thought this was reason enough to go and watch it, whilst joining in with Eamonn in the twitter-commentary.
Turns out my preconceptions and Mr Forde’s observations were very accurate! This really was dire television, a character-based sketch show that was thoroughly unoriginal, lazy, and dull. Oh yes, and a bit racist too! It’s the latest project from David Walliams and Matt Lucas, eg. the pair that made Little Britain, a show that was great at times, but had its formula worn pretty damn thin after a while. What they’ve done here is managed to carry over the tired, predictable (and unfunny) feeling of that third series of Little Britain to a selection of new characters we haven’t even had the chance to grow weary of yet! An impressive feat.
Although to say these characters are ‘new’ in any meaningful sense seems a little inaccurate. Mostly, ‘Wallucas’ (that’s how I’m going to abbreviate their 2 names from now on) rely on a selection of stereotypes, often racial ones. We had a pair of hysterical Japanese schoolgirls (with stretched eyes no less), an Ali-G like character, and a black woman called Precious (who shouted ‘Praise the Lord’ and sang gospel songs to herself) who was such a stereotype that “Lucas might as well have put a fucking bone through his nose” (Eamonn Forde again).
In the case of Precious and the Japanese schoolgirls, there was no discernible joke in the sketches other than “look at the funny foreigner! Hear their funny voices!”. Seriously, if anyone found any other supposed source of humour in these particular sketches, please let me know, because as far as I could tell, there was only the blacked/yellowed up Wallucas’s mining of racial stereotypes from 35 years ago and beyond to laugh at. Ha ha.
Now there’s four problems here. One, the casually racist attitude of somebody of a different race/culture being a joke in their own right. Two, the idea of blacking up and using grotesque prosthetics (and comedy foreigner accents) to enable white comedians to impersonate and take the piss out of other races/cultures (Did somebody say Black and White Minstrel show?). Three, the fact that these stereotypes are extracted more or less untouched from the calm-down-its-only-a-bit-of-racism side of the 1970’s. And four, that crucially, they just aren’t funny; instead it’s embarrassing to see Wallucas making their way through these sketches. ‘Really?’, you find yourself thinking. ‘Did you really think that that was going to be funny?’ This stereotyping isn’t making any kind of point or comment, isn’t using irony to subvert what it presents or show racism up an idiot’s preserve. Instead it reinforces the idea of these stereotypes and saying ‘yeah go for it, have a chuckle at the silly Japanese’. And it can’t even be suggested that Wallucas are being provocative or cleverly controversial, as there’s bugger all clever or interesting about it. It is what Wallucas may well see as worse than being offensive; boring, unfunny, and embarrassing.
There are several characters that don’t involve a lazy racial stereotype, but though they won’t offend on minority-mocking grounds, most will offend with their mediocrity. There are not one but two sets of characters based on a husband who is put upon by his wife, two check-in girls who are bitchy, an old lady in a wheel chair exploiting an attendant (a little reminiscent of Lou and Andy…). All these characters were served up with slight variations on Wallucas’s already well familiar accents, expressions and mannerisms, producing some that were effectively the same as Little Britain characters (the paparazzi seemed particularly familiar). Move along, nothing to see here.
There were a few moments i liked; a fake security man patting people down and groping people then being discovered and running away was amusing, as was the border control bit. But generally, very little of this felt fresh, interesting, or in any way unpredictable. Or funny. How this show got made, let alone allowed to premier it’s first episode in a prime slot on Christmas Day (and it’s second on New Years Day) is beyond me; I know there’s a lot of popular shite about, but really, is this considered good enough? Tragic.
So basically, I didn’t much like it.
I don’t particularly want to add a clip, so instead I offer you some music from Flying Lotus, as the name of Come Fly With Me’s fictional airline was ‘Flylo’, also used as a nickname for said musician. He’s great, so you’ll probably have a much better time in his company than Wallucas’s.