The Luke McQueen Pilots: Britain’s Hidden Vampire Crisis | TV review by Steve Bennett © BBC/Talkback
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The Luke McQueen Pilots: Britain’s Hidden Vampire Crisis

TV review by Steve Bennett

Luke McQueen has earned a reputation for fearless, often confrontational, stand-up, with unpredictable talking-point stunts becoming the hallmark of his Edinburgh shows.

A transfer to TV necessarily means bottling his mercurial skills, and the first of his BBC Three pilots – tongue-in-cheek attempts at three different styles of programmes – only partially succeeds.

The suggestion is that the try-outs ‘did not go to plan’ – and that McQueen has tried to stop them being broadcast, but the BBC insists on releasing them ‘in the interests of transparency’.

In the opener, he notes the success of first-person investigative documentaries by the likes of Stacey Dooley and Reggie Yates – both of whom are frequently namechecked –  and tries to copy their style as he probes Britain’s Hidden Vampire Crisis.

Certainly director Paul Taylor has remained faithful to the clichés of the genre: the earnest set-up, news footage (even if McQueen has to concede that ‘none of those clips were actually about vampires’), the reflective questioning of his research as he walks in slow motion past photogenic landmarks. But any parody is so close as to be ineffective, and the pace very slow.

McQueen slightly channels Alan Partridge when interviewing an expert, his eyes glazing over when he gets an answer more complex and nuanced than his preconceptions demand, then becomes more manipulative, cherry-picking a quote and giving it a false context so he hears what he wants to hear.

In this scene, he also wants to emphasis that he’s a comedian not a journalist, telling his producer ‘I might do a couple of gags’. But it’s not a concept that ever comes up again, the rest of the show sticking to the documentary format – albeit in a twisted form. The premise is that he has a personal mission here as Mark Silcox, playing his adoptive father, always insisted that McQueen’s mother had been abducted by vampires in a conspiracy the comedian concludes goes all the way up to the top.

Eventually, we get to the set-pieces of the programme, starting with a dramatic attempt to gain attention in the street so he can spread the word about the vampire threat… though his suggested action to reduce the number of virgins they could prey on is not a popular one.

Mcqueen

To advance his agenda, he pushes the idea of an NHS blood donor centre as a sinister government-funded plot, which doesn’t really pay off as the interview with a transfusion nurse feels more staged than his real-world interactions.

Speaking of which, his gatecrashing of a gig by a heavy metal band that uses vampyric iconography ends in the most memorable scenes of the show, as a humiliated McQueen ironically tells the crowd of the non-undead ‘you’ve all really embarrassed yourself there’. It’s one of the few scenes where McQueen’s bravery as a performer is fully utilised

Such uncomfortable hidden-camera pieces are what defines this first Luke McQueen Pilot, but they are rare moments in a show that can otherwise feel anaemic, with dubious ideas stretched thin.


Luke McQueen's response

After this review was published Luke McQueen responded with this email

Hi Steve,

I read your review of the series and I just wanted to thank you for your support during this difficult time. As you know I’ve been unsuccessful in my attempts to get the series banned but your review will at least help reduce the number of people that actually watch it. It’s so perfect mate, a one star and people might have watched out of curiosity but 2 and a half is hilarious, no one will bother with a 2 and a half, seriously, I really appreciate it. 

I also wanted to say that I loved it when you questioned why there weren’t any jokes in it after I said I wanted people to remember I was a comedian, the BBC will absolutely hate that, you’ve really exposed them there. 

I had so many great lines that they cut, for example, there was one time where the producer was telling me off for not finding any real vampires so I threw a brick at her face but she ducked out of the way so I said, 'Look, I’ve found a real vampire, it’s Count Duckular.' Predictably, this was cut from the show because they don’t want people to find me funny. 

That’s what I don’t understand. It’s as if they wanted this to ruin my career. Either way, I don’t think many people will watch it now, I’ve never seen anything quite like it on TV before so I doubt many people will even understand what it is. 

The second and third episodes are really humiliating so I don’t know if I’ll carry on with comedy after this plus I think my agent is going to terminate our agreement. There’s so many comedians out there it’s difficult to stand out so it’s probably not worth chasing the dream any longer, I’ll probably just concentrate on trying to make money out of my dancing. So, unless you start reviewing dance, this may have been our final tango lol. 

Thanks Steve

Review date: 5 Sep 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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