I’ve seen some terrible sit-coms in my time – that one where Nicholas Lyndhurst plays a widow, My Family from series 3 to 817, Rumble with Leslie Joseph, the last series of the Brittas Empire, The Smoking Room (that’ll probably offend some arty-farty types), Holding the Baby with the ‘great’ Nick Hancock and probably dozens more that are too bland to remember – but very rarely do these shows make me feel angry.
After all, sit-coms are supposed to be funny aren’t they? Some light relief to escape into.
I can’t imagine writing comedy is all that easy. Sure, I find it easy to inject a bit of humour into stuff like this, but developing characters and situations for them to be in, and make it funny is a real talent. If you need an example of good comedy, check out Arrested Development or Modern Family. Both shows have well rounded characters and deliver them into fresh and humorous scenarios each week.
Bad comedy though? Well, jokes can misfire I suppose and you’re also at the mercy of the actors and actresses delivering your lines (so why people still hire old Nicky Lyndhurst I genuinely don’t know).
But what about when comedy goes beyond bad? When it’s dressed up as comedy but is just a series of swearwords and lines that have no comedy value at all, smothered in a laughter track to try and tell you that it is a comedy. Surely something like that wouldn’t get past a TV channel’s commissioning board? And in the off chance that it did, surely people would see that it was so bad that they would pull it from the air after a couple of episodes – that’s what they do in America after all.
Surely there wouldn’t be THREE SERIES of a ‘comedy’ like this?
Well there is. It’s hands down the worst TV show I have ever seen in my life. A show with no redeeming features. A show that has no comedy to it. A show with horrendous acting. And a show that you have to watch once just to feel a sense of anger that you have probably never experienced watching ‘entertainment’ before.
Coming of Age
Coming of Age is a show about the ‘crazy antics’ of a group of Sixth Form College students and is presumably the BBC’s attempt to show that they hire young writers who can appeal to younger viewers. Maybe there’s a grant involved or something. In many ways it’s the opposite of Last of the Summer Wine or the continued employment of Bruce Forsyth.
It’s written by a guy born in 1988 whose Wikipedia entry reads “When asked about creating what the interviewer called the worst cultural artefact in British history, Dawson responded with an innuendo.” Says it all really.
I think back to when I was 19 (which is how old he’ll have been when he first started writing this) and ask myself ‘Would I have found this funny?‘ and then I remember that when I was 19 I watched intelligent comedy like Stephen Moffat’s Coupling. So no, I wouldn’t have.
Anyway, I suppose this is aimed at people between the ages of 16 and 18 – a demographic well known for spending their nights in watching TV on BBC Three – because anyone younger than 16 should not be allowed to watch it, and indeed if you play the show on iPlayer you have to clarify you are 16 or over.
I’ve seen snippets of the show here and there but decided that I would take the plunge and watch an entire episode to review. And I’m going to write the review WHILE I watch it.
This episode is called Lesbian Jumper, with the synopsis ‘Matt develops a penchant for older women. DK and Robyn visit a lesbian bar to get Robyn into the gay dating scene.’
The show itself starts off with a ‘Previously on…‘ bit, where a Welsh youngster says “Ah, vitamin beer” to great laughter, followed by “The most important vitamin of all” to even more laughter.
A pug faced boy in a tracksuit finds a gun and is expelled from college by the Head Mistress. The news is tempered by a fat bloke in a beard saying “Jingle balls” to him in a scary voice while the audience roar with approval.
A simpleton in a penguin costume is apparently shagging a woman in her 40s while standing in front of a life-size cut-out of Jeremy Clarkson, flapping his penguin arms and shouting ‘I’m King of the World’ (to massive hilarity). The ginger girl who is an extra in the actually funny Inbetweeners catches him in the act, and he screams while the older woman looks bored.
And then all that before the opening credits.
Ah…the opening credits. A song with a woman saying ‘All We Wanna Do is Fu…’ over and over again. Kids these days, eh?
So anyway, the opening scene and the simpleton (Matt), the Ginger girl, the Welsh guy and another girl are sitting round a table while Matt appears to ‘get off’ reading Good Housekeeping, or something similar, saying “Listen to this, Barbara from Hull wants us to try her Sherry trifle. I bet you do you dirty bitch”
The Ginger girl then says he can’t believe she let him ‘Lay his man eggs in (her) happy nest’.
It turns out they used to go out and she is jealous of his exploits. He meanwhile has plans on shagging another older woman after shagging the Welshman (Olly)’s aunt.
And Olly is causing concern because he’s become an alcoholic. No he isn’t he says. But it turns out he has three bottles of gin hidden in books and a beer keg in his bag. And he also does pratfalls to massive applause.
Next up, the ugly bloke who was expelled – DK – is back in school, cleverly disguised by wearing a fake moustache. He’s speaking to the lesbian girl we read about in the synopsis. He tries to seduce her by rubbing his body against hers. She tells him to back off because she’s a lesbian and he says ‘I know, I just wanted to hear you say it. It turns me on’. Again, the hilarity this causes the audience is very confusing.
She then gives him a present. “Is it a present?” he asks? “No, it’s a camel.” Massive laughs.
She says she wants to give him a present because he’s helped her settle into the group. He asks if she’d rather not give him a blowjob. HA! Even more hilariously the present turns out to be a bright coloured jumper with a sheep on it. He makes a ‘funny noise’ to ensure we know he doesn’t like it.
The fat bloke from the ‘Previously bit’ then turns up and tells him to leave before the police are called. That of course wouldn’t be funny on its own, but saying ‘For Schizl’ at the end does ensure that we the audience are able to keep laughing all the way through.
Next up the Ginger girl is offered the position of Hall Monitor, which she gleefully accepts, because she wants a position of power. For no reason, she then says – to her Headmistress sure enough – “See ya, Bitch” and leaves. The audience roar with approval.
We then move to a short scene in which Matt comes (oh look, I said ‘comes’ – that’s funnier that anything in this show) into the college caffeteria, approaches a cleaner who is in her 50s and says, reading off his hand “Hello Middle Aged Lady. Do you mind if I tickle your chin whiskers with my balls?”. The woman punches him and the audience break into applause.
There’s a long scene next with the girl whose name I still don’t know where she is concerned about his alcoholism. There are some gems of dialogue including…
“Pass me that cider. It has apples in it. Its part of my five a day” HAHAHAHAHA
“You drink five cans of cider a day?”
“Of course not. I drink nearer 10” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
“You were drunk in college”
“I’d had a shock; someone had thrown up in my locker”
“Yeah…you” AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!1111111 one one one
DK comes in wearing the jumper which he hates and then does a rap which finishes with the line
“…I don’t like your jumpa, but maybe as a consolation how about I pump ya. Balamory”.
At this point the ‘audience’ are on their feet applauding and cheering.
I just don’t understand what’s going on.
DK decides the way to ensure he doesn’t have to wear the jumper is to make the lesbian girl an even worse one. I’m not sure I follow that logic.
But anyway, he leaves the room they are in and the unknown girl then makes a few Oliver Reed and George Best references about Olly’s alcoholism. I can’t help but think the target audience won’t have a clue what that’s about.
Similarly in the next scene the ginger girl – while failing to make the students in the hallway do as she commands – makes a series of jokes where she gets Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels mixed up with Ken Dodd. Apart from that not being remotely funny or accurate, what 16 year old is going to get that joke in 2011.
Don’t worry though because in amongst that we have great jokes like
Ginger Girl: “You! Polish your buttons”
(in response) Random Girl: “Polish your tits”
Ginger Girl: “You! Make your bed”
(in response) Random Bloke: “Only if you shag me in it first”
We’re only 10 minutes in and I’m long since passed the point where I’d normally put it off, but I shall carry on for the sake of the review.
We find out that the unknown girl is called Jazz as Olly admits he has a problem. Matt comes in as Jazz says “Matt, Olly has just made a shock admission“, to which Matt replies “Oh, that happens to me all the time. I just wear
two pairs of pants”.
As if the joke wasn’t blunt enough, it’s then hammered in to our heads by Olly saying “No Matt, ADmission, not EMmission”. Thanks for that. I had no idea where that joke was going.
Matt then declares he’s going to seduce the head-mistress. I can’t wait to see how that pans out.
Meanwhile, the resolution we’ve all been waiting for. DK has knitted the lesbian girl a terrible jumper and wouldn’t you believe it – she LOVES it. I didn’t see that coming. “How can I thank you?” she asks. “Sex”, DK replies. HA! Instead they agree to go to a lesbian club together.
At this point, the ‘humour’ descends even further round the U-Bend when the fat bloke arrives and says “DK, you shouldn’t be here. Right, I’m calling the police“.
And of course, by calling the police he means standing there shouting at the top of his voice, “Police! Police! Yoo-Hoo! Boys in Blue, I want to see your helmets”. Of course, the innuendo there that ‘helmet’ is interpretted in the phallic sense.
Matt then handcuffs himself to the Head-Mistress and tries to sexually assault her. There are no words…
The Ginger Girl then turns up in the cafeteria dressed in the BBC props department’s leftover Herr Flick costume from ‘Allo ‘Allo. Even though the ‘audience’ is clearly just a bloke with an applause button, he doesn’t actually bother to press it for this bit.
The highlight of the next few minutes is…
Matt: “I know where I can get cannabis”
Matt: “Well, not cannabis…tomatoes”
After that, Ginger Girl admits to Lesbian Girl that while she took the job of Hall Monitor to appeal to her sense of power that she used to have while dating Matt, she’s realised that it isn’t power she misses, but Matt himself. Lesbian girl gives her a hug and the audience go ‘Awwwww’.
Arguably, this scene could be accused of having a point to it and maybe even including some character development. But this is then ruined by the child-like writer’s bulldozer-subtle ‘humour’ when ginger girl says
Ginger Girl: “Are you trying to touch me up?”
Lesbian Girl: “What do you think I am? Some kind of rampant pussy fiend? Well…I was actually! I love a girl in uniform”
I can’t imagine many young 16-18 year old girls struggling with their sexuality will find much comfort watching this.
Similarly, the next scene in which Jazz ‘cures’ Olly’s alcoholism by giving him what Olly assumes to be cannabis (but is actually a tomato plant). “I’m glad it’s taken your mind off the drink”
Matt then tries to seduce an 80 year old. And it works. A ‘Lady & The Tramp’ parody montage then follows with them eating together, him feeding her her medication and ultimately the 80 year old collapsing dead. Again, the ‘audience’ find this hilarious.
The child-like mocking of Lesbians is completed when they go to a Lesbian club and DK gets seduced by a deep voiced 6 foot tall German girl who manages to tick all the ‘stereotype butch lesbian’ boxes. She then rapes DK. I’m not kidding.
There’s a back at ranch-house scene to finish where Ginger Girl (who is finally given a name – Chloe) and Matt get back together after she explains for the third time that she realises she misses him, and then the fat guy does the ‘Call the Police gag’ again.
As a show, this just isn’t funny. I get it – I’m not the target audience. But are 16-18 year olds really the target audience either? I can imagine 10 year old boys finding humour in swear words and people talking about drink, drugs and sex, but I can’t imagine anyone with any semblance of intelligence or maturity seeing this show as anything other than utter drivel.
Sometimes you can watch a comedy show and decide you don’t like it, but then begrudgingly have to admit you found one joke, once in a while, amusing. Even if it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, it can at least raise a smile.
This show doesn’t raise a smile, but instead creates a frown. Everything about it is terrible. The music is purile, the writing has no substance, the jokes are not remotely funny, the content is offensive, it sends out the wrong messages to kids (and the writers should know fine well that it’s kids who are watching this) and the acting is among the worst you’ll see anywhere.
Chloe (Anabel Barnston) and Matt (Tony Bignell) in particular are two of the worst actors you will ever see. In anything. Ever. And I include school-plays in that.
Actually, as young actors, every one of them acts like they are in a CBBC show, where every emotion is exaggerated so the kids can see when someone is cross, or when they are happy. Because as I’ve said, that’s what this is – a show acted for children. That is made clear by the ‘key phrase’ (like for example Del Boy saying “You Plonker” or Sid James’s cackling) is ‘Balamory’. That’s because the key audience were toddlers when Balamory was on. But while it’s a show acted for kids, it’s a show that is completely inappropriate for them.
Let’s be honest, kids today swear from the age of 2. But we shouldn’t encourage it. Drinking is portrayed as cool. Drugs are made out to be even better. A bit like Skins really (but Skins – a show written by young writers which glamorises the life of a late-teen for those who aren’t yet at that age – is actually well written).
And yet, despite me criticising it, despite that interviewer in the quote above calling it the worst cultural artefact in British history, and despite me finding nobody who has anything but contempt for this show, it has been on for 3 series and therefore must get viewing figures and praise from somewhere.
If anything, that says more about the youth of today than any ‘anti-kids’ journalist could muster up.
Possibly the worst and most fake thing about this whole sorry show is the ‘Audience’, which is either a laughter track or a ‘studio audience’ made up of plants who laugh on cue. Certainly the people in the audience sound like fully grown men and women.
Don’t get me wrong, some old fashioned comedy is helped by the laughter of the studio audience, because you can tell it’s genuine. You can hear individual laughs and people struggling for breath. And it can help make things even funnier – like Fawlty Towers or some old sketches like ‘Fork Handles’ from the Two Ronnies or ‘Bloody Greta Garbo’ from Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore. It gets funnier because they themselves try not to laugh in response to the audience’s laughter and so the comedy builds.
But good comedy doesn’t need it, and in 2011, it’s just a crutch used by some comedies that aren’t funny without them.When they brought back Red Dwarf and it didn’t have an audience there to tell the viewer when and where to laugh, we found there wasn’t much to it. Similarly, the acting was so old fashioned that they delivered their lines and then stopped for where there would usually be applause. The same happened in the now-incredibly-dated Only Fools and Horses where they did the Miami Twice episode with no laughter track. It just didn’t seem funny.
And Coming of Age is just a classic example. If there was a genuine audience in there, they wouldn’t laugh. Maybe some purile people would make the occasional noise, but in all likelihood there would be groans, boos, rotten fruit being thrown onto the stage or just silence. And that wouldn’t help. But having someone press a button to tell the audience ‘This bit is funny’ time and time again just adds to my anger while watching it.
I’ve never had so much negative feeling towards any other programme like I do this one.
Should You Watch Coming of Age
I’m going to say ‘Yes’. I want you to see how bad this is, and realise that we are paying our TV license to fund shit like this. Then I want you to write in to Points of View to get it thrown off the air.
You’ll hate it too.