Thursday, 8 November 2012

TV: Fool Britannia

More hilarious pranks and comic creations from Dom Joly.

Fool Britannia featuring Dom Joly as the asbo vicar
and many other great new characters.
I have to admit that although I enjoyed the first episode of Fool Britannia, overall I was still left feeling ever so slightly disappointed.  The trouble was that I had been expecting an exact replica of Dom Joly’s first hidden camera prank show, Trigger Happy, and although there are a lot of obvious similarities between the two shows, Fool Britannia is nevertheless its own show.

It would be fair to say that Fool Britannia is kind of an ITV-ified version of Trigger Happy.  It takes the same general formula and then tinkers with it slightly to produce a more mainstream friendly show.  For example, whereas Trigger Happy would link sketches together with cool indie tunes, Fool Britannia instead features voice-overs to introduce some of the sketches.

Canned laughter has also been used, and the editorial changes between Trigger Happy and Fool Britannia can at first take a bit of getting used to, which is perhaps why despite enjoying the first episode I was nevertheless still left with the opinion that it hadn’t quite matched the high standards I had expected.  However, I enjoyed the initial viewing enough to ensure I tuned in the following Saturday and within a couple of weeks I had been completely won over.  I think it’s just a case of needing to shake off your preconceived expectations and then once you’ve done that you can then appreciate Fool Britannia in its own right.

Despite the editorial differences though, some of the actual material from Fool Britannia would fit in almost perfectly on Trigger Happy.  One sketch featuring two backpackers carrying two very wide and obstructive backpacks starts off by taking its obvious inspiration from the two fat men (Dom and accomplice wearing padded suits) from Trigger Happy, as they pull the same amusing trick of blocking doorways and alleyways to the frustration of pedestrians.  Similarly, the fighting gnomes are pretty much a remake of Trigger Happy’s fighting cats and dogs but with different costumes.

Other sketches though, such as a humorous scene where the rather gormless Professor John Romeo from Kensington University interviews Glaswegians using an interpreter to translate the strong Glaswegian accent, whilst still in the same general Dom Joly spirit of comedy, are nevertheless more or less fresh Dom Joly creations.

Dom Joly as the brilliant asbo vicar.
Arguably one of the funniest sketches on Fool Britannia is the asbo vicar who engages village visitors in friendly chats before then commencing with unexpected antics such as pushing old ladies into the stream and cutting kids’ balloons.  One sketch which had me in absolute fits of laughter was a scene where the asbo vicar is out with a group of choir boys and they stumble across a frail old man with a walking stick who has a nasty fall.  Quick as a flash Dom and the choir boys spot an opportunity for high-jinks and sprint across to the old man in high spirits shouting ‘Bundle!’* as they pile on top of him.

* I used to refer to it as a ‘Pile on!’ when I was at school.
Dom as the asbo vicar finds this an absolutely hilarious prank and as the poor old man eventually struggles to his feet once again even some of the watching public sitting nearby can’t hide their amusement at the surrealness of a vicar acting like he was still at school and starting a ‘bundle’ on top of a poor old man who has taken a fall.  In fact the reaction of the unsuspecting passers-by is what makes the asbo vicar so funny and some of the reactions are absolutely priceless as they stare open-mouthed in stunned shock at some of the vicar’s more outrageous behaviour.

Other regular characters on the show include Ian Yard the over officious safety officer, the ‘Happy To Help’ tourist information assistant, who in actual fact provides very little help at all and the unfortunate accident prone dude who sits bandaged-up in his wheelchair and reports on how he got his injuries to passers-by with increasingly far-fetched stories.  Inevitably some sketches are funnier than others, but overall there’s a great selection of entertaining characters on display throughout each show.

To sum it all up, if you go into Fool Britannia expecting an exact replica of Trigger Happy then like me you may find yourself feeling initially slightly underwhelmed as your preconceived expectations are not quite fulfilled.  But if you watch Fool Britannia aware that the spirit of Trigger Happy, although still firmly intact, has been transported into a more ITV-ified mainstream home for Dom Joly’s trademark sense of humour, then you’ll likely discover that Fool Britannia is a very funny show which grows on you more and more as the series progresses.

. . . . . . . .

The first series of Fool Britannia has come to an end now, but you can rent all nine episodes on the ITV player:
Fool Britannia - Series 1 

Update: At the time of writing, the first few episodes of series 2 of Fool Britannia are currently available for free on the ITV player:
Fool Britannia - Series 2

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TV on 'Worthy Of A Bigger Audience'

Please note, all promotional images used on this blog remain the copyright of the respective publishers and are used in accordance with 'Fair Use' legislation for review purposes.

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