TV review by Steve Bennett

The best comedy TV producers and commissioners are facilitators, helping make the ideas of talented comedians, writers and actors come to screen, maybe with a Nudge or suggestion here or there. The worst mistake themselves for creators, devising formats then trying to prescribe who or what would fit them.

This executive-led approach works well for panel shows (though admittedly limits the sort of comedian who can work them) – yet tends to fail abysmally in other formats. It reached a nadir last night, after some bright spark came up with the idea of banishing professional comedy folk from the process altogether and replacing actors and writers with ‘real’ people.

Kookyville is nominally a sketch show based on the ‘structured reality’ format of programmes such as The Only Way Is Essex or Made In Chelsea. What it was, in fact, was an absolute train wreck – the most unwatchably abhorrent, painfully unfunny half-hour of comedy Channel 4 have surely ever broadcast. That it aired after two sublime pieces of television, Homeland and Peep Show, should shame everyone involved in this execrable output. Though ‘shame’ is surely not in their vocabulary.

The thinking presumably was that if comedians are inspired by real people - such as the League Of Gentlemen getting a lot of character traits from Jeremy Kyle guests – then let’s go straight to the source. Steal Little Britain’s style of voiceover wholesale (and sad to hear the wonderful Fenella Fielding reduced to this) and hey, presto - the biggest hit since TOWIE.

Of course TV’s idea of ‘real’ people is not the same as anyone else’s, so they tracked down the usual motley crew of fuckwits and fame-seekers. Some of the idiotic things they said could have been funny in the mouths of characters, but here they just seem pitiful. How did we get t the place where fictional creations are more warm, likable and well-rounded than actual human beings?

The most-frequently featured pair were slow-witted Annierose and her mum Suzanne, who we first met speaking about the people they followed on Twitter with all the spontaneity and warmth of the voice that tells you ‘Cashier Number 4, please’ in the Post Office. Later they are sitting in a cafe, when a man with dwarfism comes in – showing producers getting desperate to manufacture some incident before even the first commercial break, and stopping at the first port of call for any comedy writers. Our bleached-blonde airheads decided they’d like to adopt a dwarf, as if he was a baby. It would be offensive if it wasn’t so pathetic.

More stupidity from the mentally subnormal Babs and Cabs getting baffled by a petting zoo. They think ‘ewe’ is pronounced ‘you-wee’, that pygmy goats have something to do with pigs and that the Queen on the stamps isn’t the same as the Queen on the notes. Why are these people on TV? Jade Goody has got a lot to answer for.

Disabled people made another appearance in a story told by hoteliers Malcom and Katherine,first seen putting a ‘No Idiots’ sign outside their establishment, Fawlty-Towers-style. They tell of a victim of Thalidomide falling out of a window and throwing him back in. Charming.

Car dealer Afzal was their version of David Brent (but with the voice of Karl Pilkington) awkwardly addressing the camera with cringeworthy phrases as he introduces his staff and shows off his a novelty button that sounds the ‘bullshit’ alarm. ‘For bosses, this is a fantastic product,’ he boasts. But, as in every scene in Kookyville, the fictional version is infinitely better. It’s embarrassing without being funny.

Foul-mouthed, dope-smoking Ronnie was crudely funny, in the spirit of Catherine Tate’s nan, but she’s such an appalling woman she really oughtn’t to be out in public, let alone on TV.

There were a few jokes, but for a show purportedly without writers, they were very contrived. One of the bar-room wheeler-dealers Drew and Wicksey – who cares which is which? – claimed the first letter S fell off his Speedos, so he can’t be around children. While Annierose mistook Englebert Humperdinck for opticians Dollond & Aitchison.

That’s nothing. Someone at Channel 4 mistook Kookyville for a decent idea. Memo to new Channel 4 comedy chief Phil Clarke - whose current company Objective has to be held responsible for this programme: No more, please. This has to be the worst pilot since Mohamed Atta.

Published: 26 Nov 2012

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