Muzlamic | TV review by Steve Bennett © BBC Studios
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TV review by Steve Bennett

At Christmas, the BBC offered a retrospective of Goodness Gracious Me, boasting how the show ‘launched British Asian comedy onto mainstream TV’.

So successful were Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Co that the BBC have now rushed out another Asian sketch show, a mere 21 years later. And in case that was too drastic, Muzlamic lasts just 14 minutes and has been put out on iPlayer-only BBC Three. Diversity comes slowly…

In the final reckoning, Aatif Nawaz and Ali Shahalom’s offering doesn’t shake the perennial sketch show curse of being ‘a bit hit and miss’, but it has a lively energy and some strong ideas.

The pair are at their best when mocking white folk, most notably in the office scenes in which the only two Asians in the company vie to see who can best fit in with their caucasian colleagues. ‘I’m so white’ could easily be a hashtag – a fact Internet star Shahalomis no doubt well aware – and there are lots of quick gags and observations about both cultures crammed into their exchanges.

A talk show in which the author of the cutesy kids’ book The Diary Of A Friendly Squirrel is grilled over his thoughts on 9/11, grooming gangs and honour killings is a little direct, but nicely done, and makes a point that needs saying. 

Mewanwhile the opening scene – in which two brown dudes are so blasé about being pulled in for questioning by Border Force yet again that they can tell the official how to do his job – plays off the same stereotype with amusement rather than anger. One pedantic, nagging question, though: why were immigration hassling them LEAVING the country?

Closer to Nawaz and Shahalom’s professional experiences, a couple of skits about acting have mixed results. One about whitewashing in casting is a bit heavy-footed with its guest-star payoff but makes its points more lightly along the way. The uber-fan who turns on an actor he recognises is a dud, though.

Other than the ‘I’m so white’ notion, other recurring scenes feature a guy forever smoking a hookah, which didn’t really catch, and Mabz, the would-be gangsta owner of an East London barbershop. He’s a strong character – an instantly recognisable type with plenty of potential so you can see why he keeps coming back, even if the jokes often clunk.

• Watch Muzlamic here and click here for an interview with  Aatif Nawaz and Ali Shahalom

Review date: 22 Jul 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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