Pramface (BBC3) **
Pramface returned this week, coincidentally at the same time as the latest teenage pregnancy figures. This is a comedy about two young parents, Jamie and Laura (Scarlett Alice Johnson and Sean Michael Verey), who’ve had a baby after a night of too much drink and loud music.
Unfortunately, the series three opener wasn’t nearly funny enough. The laughs that did come all originated in the subplots. On one side there were the reactions of Beth and Mike (Yasmin Paige and Dylan Edwards) in the aftermath of sleeping together. On the other was the house hunting of Keith and Sandra (Ben Crompton and Bronagh Gallagher), the highlight being the tilting house towards the end. Keith has always, probably, been the funniest character in the show, so it says something about the quality of the episode that even his part felt underwhelming. The problem was that, as calamity and disaster were piled on, the laughs were essentially left behind. In one episode, Jamie’s family was evicted and Laura’s parents decided on a divorce whilst she wriggled around trying to tell Jamie to back off in their relationship. It would be easier to care if theirs was a relationship that we could really buy, but no one would put them together in real life. If it was trying to tell us something, that ‘something’ got lost ‘somewhere’. Pramface started out with promise back in 2012, and BBC3 have got good pedigree (Him&Her, Bad Education), but that promise has since dilapidated. It’s a real shame.
Bluestone 42 (BBC3) ***
Pramface wasn’t the only returning BBC3 comedy this week. Could Bluestone 42 pick up the dropped baton? Well, yes – I think so. Set in Afghanistan, and revolving around a bomb disposal unit, this is the controversial comedy that’s not particularly controversial. It was ‘controversial’ enough to see it hidden away in the Christmas schedules following a tragic story in the news, but not controversial enough to be ‘alternative’. It’s likeable, quite funny, a bit crude, but a generally fun watch. It can be quite deep too, when it wants to be. And it doesn’t shy away from drama either. In the series two opener there was almost a fatal bomb incident, admittedly with the comic side that the car didn’t have a handbrake. This wasn’t its best, or classiest, episode to date sure – there were a bit too many ‘lad’ moments as the ‘guys’ competed for perhaps the most disgusting honour in television – but overall it’s a welcome return.
Jonathan Creek (BBC1) **
With Jonathan Creek only appearing sporadically in specials of recent years, it’s easy to forget that it did start out in ‘series’ format. Another thing I’ve almost forgotten: Jonathan Creek used to be really, really good. I sort of knew things weren’t going to entirely work out from the jarring moment where that haunting soundtrack was followed by an establishing shot of cars in a busy street. Jonathan Creek isn’t modern; it’s old fashioned in its own, distinct way. I’m sure it says something that the moments where episode one came alive were those where the show mocked the rapid deductions of Sherlock with a ‘would-be-detective’ that got basically everything wrong. Unfortunately, these mock deductions were well done and only sought to remind me that this wasn’t Sherlock.
There were a number of very funny moments, some darker than others. “Why is everything so hard” said Sarah Alexander over her dead father’s coffin; “Rigor mortis, I think you’ll find.” replied the funeral director. Play on words – cheeky! However, it was all quite hard to believe – would anyone really inform someone of their dad’s death by text? I don’t think David Renwick (the show’s writer) was even trying to fool us. None of that would’ve have mattered had the end delivered, but it didn’t. There was no reveal. Jonathan Creek is still likeable and generally entertaining. Alan Davies is good as Creek and I liked Alexander. There was just nothing else to it; now that was disappointing.
In other TV, the big stir of the week is that Amazon is set to bring axed BBC drama Ripper Street back. Over 40,000 fans signed the online petition to save the programme, dropped after suffering low ratings last year. Bringing it back, albeit to an online audience, is a fascinating move. TV is changing and it’s frankly exciting!