Glaswegian comedian Frankie Boyle's controversial interjections on Mock The Week turned that show into must-see TV for many, and his loss made the show immediately less infamous. There's certainly a place for Boyle's brand of "shock comedy" on network television, particularly in a landscape currently dominated by family-friendly comics like Michael McIntyre, Rhod Gilbert and John Bishop. Sadly, Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights is a horrendous mess, on the evidence of its first episode.
It uses a tried-and-trusted format: stand-up comedy interspersed with sketches. What's unfortunate is that (a) Boyle's stand-up routines are taken directly from his recent tour, meaning many fans will have heard the jokes before, and (b) the sketches were idiotic attempts at shocking people that dragged on past their natural end points. The first sketch, running with the idea that David Hasselhoff's character in Knight Rider was mentally ill, was perhaps the worst offender -- a target 25 years out of date, a stupid idea you'd expect from a schoolboy, producing a sketch that seemed to last forever. Other sketches included candid camera spoof "Hide Me, I've Killed A Kid", an animated "George Michael's Highway Code" (topical?) and a bizarre parody of The Green Mile where the black character's supernatural power came from... raping people?
Tramadol Nights was objectionable in a way it wasn't aiming for; a show with zero intelligence behind it. I could scarcely believe Frankie Boyle's the bearded ringmaster of this tripe, as the prospect of a Channel 4 comedy from him was a delicious prospect up until last night. Too much of its sketches were pale excuses for Boyle to visually enact jokes that work better in the minds of an audience being told them verbally. At the very least, someone should have reminded Boyle that a sketch works best if it's less than two-minutes long, not twice that.
The sole positive: you don't need to buy Frankie Boyle's DVD as a stocking filler this Christmas, because it seems likely all of its material will be served up here each week.
30 November 2010, Channel 4/HD, 10PM
Continuing Tuesday night's sour comedy hour, The Morgana Show is a brand new five-part sketch show that's similarly humorless and prolonged -- although there's a glimmer of potential because its star, Morgana Robinson, is clearly a talented performer and mimic. It's just a shame the writing can't match her. Unusually, Channel 4 commissioned this show after being impressed by Morgana's self-made pilot, without testing the water by showing it as part of the Comedy Lab season, or on late-night E4.
It's great someone had faith in this show, and for someone like Morgana to be rewarded for her proactive nature in getting themselves a TV show made, but that made the disappointment of The Morgana Show itself cut even deeper. I wanted this to be a comedy treasure to discover and spread the word to others, but it turned out to be fool's gold.
It's another character-based sketch show; one with a slight League Of Gentlemen vibe, spliced with sketches you'd expect to see in a darker version of The Fast Show. Indeed, Morgana Robinson reminded me of Caroline Ahearne at times, particularly during a sketch where she plays the owner of a funeral parlour married to an oafish husband. Other characters include: Madolynn, a prima donna Hollywood star now in her middle age; a pair of news reporters who trade insults with each other before the cameras roll; and homemade videos featuring a boy called Gilbert, filmed by his long-suffering granddad on a camcorder in the early-'90s. There are also a smattering of celebrity impressions: a good approximation of Cheryl Cole (seen reading an uncouth Dannii Minogue's Tarot cards backstage on The X Factor), Boris Johnson as a bumbling public schoolboy, and a truly uncanny Fearne Cotton (repurposed as a hyperactive daredevil stuntwoman, above-left).
By the end of this first episode, one thing was clear: Morgana Robinson's a talent in need of some good writers. Her Fearne Cotton impression was marvelous, and Gilbert is a convincing character with a lot of reality to him, but practically everything fell flat because it wasn't especially funny (no memorable punchlines or clever twists), and too many characters felt derivative (the monstrous actress cliché, bickering news reporters, etc.)
30 November 2010, Channel 4/HD, 10.30PM