Grotesque parodies - and a lack of laughs - leave Deborah Hill Cone dismayed at the latest offering from Little Britain duo Matt Lucas and David Walliams.
Contrary to what you might think, unfunny comedies don't just leave you with a straight face and a neutral, non-chuckling, dismissive shrug. Au contraire! When you're promised a wee-yourself guffaw-fest and instead you get a barren laugh-free desert, it can make you feel decidedly noxious.
I think it is partly because you are an active participant in a dud comedy; it makes you cringe painfully and squirm with a brutal embarrassment for the protagonists. Then you feel downright resentful that you invested your time in something which was not just a failed enterprise but actively shame-making.
I felt like stamping my feet after watching Come Fly With Me, which débuts on TV3 next Friday. It is a spoof on airline documentaries, created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, the cult comics behind hit sketch show, Little Britain.
Come Fly with Me was a huge success in the UK. As the most-watched show in Britain last Christmas Day, it attracted more than 10 million viewers.
Afterwards it caused a somewhat feeble controversy for being racist.
Lucas puts on dark make-up to play several ethnic characters, including a Muslim worker called Taaj and a West Indian woman called Precious, and Walliams plays a Middle Eastern passenger liaison officer called Moses. These caricatures seemed to aggravate delicate sensibilities in multicultural Britain.
The Daily Mail reported viewers were outraged and, on internet forums, the show was compared to a black-and-white minstrel show. The Independent's Robert Epstein said of blacked-up coffee stall attendant Precious: "Surely I'm not the only one to find this unacceptable?"
What I was shocked at was how rubbish it is, rather than the naff racism.
The white fake characters are as unfunny as the ethnic fake characters. Taaj with his "pussy wagon" golf cart and his "bitches" as passengers is ridiculously dumb, but so are the white parody check-in girls. A shame really, since the idea has potential. What do check-in girls do while they tap-tap-tap endlessly on their computer when you check in? And those pompous airline reality shows deserve to be sent up.
Walliams and Lucas nail the tone, at least, with all the wallpaper footage of speeded-up people going up and down escalators and the mindless platitudes about travel.
The authoritative narrator's voice-over is shushed enough to almost fool you this is the real thing. Everything is either ominous or heart-warming as the script struggles to inject some drama into the glaringly banal. "Today Moses has some bad news to impart." "Today Precious has to close early." "The sun sets on another day, but at the airport it never closes." "Simon and Jacky Trent are Britain's first husband-and-wife pilot duo."
But any smartness is ruined by the cringeworthy stereotypes Walliams and Lucas create to populate the airport. From Omar, the budget airline owner, to Hetty, the ageing traveller, they are grotesque parodies who made me feel ick about the whole thing.
I just wanted a bit of a laugh without feeling bad. Is that really so much to ask?
Come Fly With Me débuts on TV3, Friday, at 10pm.
- View/Herald On Sunday