Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Discovers Idiocy Galore in W1A and All Is Not What It Seems in Dystopian Electric Dreams

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Discovers Idiocy Galore in W1A and All Is Not What It Seems in Dystopian Electric Dreams

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

LET'S suppose for a minute that the comedy in W1A (BBC iPlayer) is not about the BBC. That's a stretch, because everything seems to point in that direction: the postcode, the setting (New Broadcasting House) with its Bromptonriding executives gagging on jargon and fear in meeting rooms decorated with ominous portraits of the Heroes Of Light Entertainment; the obsession with novelty and formula and trying to find ways in which these two qualities are not contradictory; the overweening bureaucracy with its cast of idiots promoted (in the iron rule of the Civil Service) to their level of incompetence; the subjugation of creativity and the jockeying for favour of the omniscient (yet absent) boss, Tony, aka Tony Hall, the Director-General, who rules with invisible, indivisible authority.

Of course it's about the BBC. And if you work at the BBC these jokes will be funny. The BBC's detractors will find solace here too, missing the point, perhaps, that an organisation which can laugh at itself is actually in a stronger position than one which can't.

But really, W1A is no more a critique of the corporation than Fawlty Towers was a guide to English bed and breakfasts. At root, W1A is a reboot of Twenty Twelve, which examined bureaucratic incompetence through the lens of the Olympic Deliverance Commission, and while the show's creator, John Morton, does have a habit of squeezing comedy from the media (see his earlier mockumentary People Like Us), his real subject is idiocy.

In W1A, as in Twenty Twelve, the Hugh Bonneville character (head of values, Ian Fletcher) is an everyman adrift on a sea of bullshit. There are signs, as the series enters its third series, that the ebbing of the effluence will follow familiar tides, and there remains a danger of caricature (notably in the foolhardy convulsions of the brand consultant Siobhan Sharpe ( Jessica Hynes). …

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