Roman's Empire BBc2, Thursdays 9.30.
As those of youse who have the (mis) fortune to know me, not far down the list of my obessions after comics, sci-fi and movies (and, perversity, which goes without saying) is comedy, previous rants on shit-coms here. Because no one asked for it we somehow have a below-par Brittas Empire for the 21st Century in the form of BBC 2's 'new' 'sitcom' Roman’s Empire. Harry and Jack Williams, the writers, have a Web site here, they say:
There wasn't any money in the budget for a proper website, so this is the next best thing. It's run by us, the writers of the show, which is why it looks like it was developed in the '80s.
This show was a peer into the abyss where the lessons learned from genius like Father Ted and Peep Show go unnoticed. It was a look into a parallel dimension where these comic aspirations weren't there and where homage and stealing are one and the same. Oh, and if it wasn't bad enough, the titular character talks a bit like Swiss Toni.
It's obviously written by a film dweebs but a film dweeb of the most annoying sort, the kind who tell you about The Big Lebowski as if you've never seen it as if they are telling you something you don't know by quoting it badly at you.
First up the title, Roman's Empire a play on Roman Holiday (1953)? As his 'empire' is a holiday company. Is this a homage to the likes of The Good Life? where the title is a pun on the characters names, these things write themselves, I thought up this pitch it 3 seconds!:
The Golden's Years: Terry Thomas and Liz Smith play a bickering retired couple, The Goldens, and the spend their golden years together.
The opening sequence with explanations of characters to Pavement-esque/Violent Femmes' 'Blister in the Sun'-lite music is reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums. This sort of music that sounds like other music is beloved of ads, like when they use what sounds like Air's Sexy Boy or something but change just enough notes to avoid paying royalties, but this also the same amout of note changing that also causes nausea.
The show also seems to assume a potential audience is made up from complete morons and every character needs to be explained to them with a voice over from the main character, coupled with this sense of panic and that every character needs to be introduced within 3 minutes or people will turn over..to what? comedy wise Thursday evenings are always a bit of comedy dead zone. It's like The Charlotte Church Show or the new Graham Norton thing where every guest is introduced immediately because you might immediately turn over because Gwen Stafani and her dancing J-harem hasn't turned up within a minute.
Then there's the great cast Chris O' Dowd from the It Crowd, Nicholas Burns from Nathan Barley, and Mathew Horne from the Catherine Tate Show.
Things that stuck in my craw:
Embarrassingly out-of-date catchphrases: “Bosch!” is this a homage to a 1980s loadsamoney character or simply meant to be funny in his own right? .
A threatening talking baby ala Big Train . (at least it's voiced by Morwenna Banks but it was an almost shot for shot steal)
Speaking of theft, someone stealing a stapler like in Office Space
This was the worst: A character who wears a dressing gown, likes bowling and white Russians…need I say more.
A supposedly hilarious film within a film called The Squid (presumably so the line 'killermari' can be used), isn't poking at bad horror films the lowest crappest joke of all, it’s like when people come up to me when they know of my obsessions and go, ‘I love those old b-movies’, what does that phrase mean? you might as well say 'I really like…movies'. 'b-movie' is a financial rather than generic description.
Anyway, it's probably be a big success with people who don't like any of the film and comedy I watch. So why make these references, they only piss off the people who could be a potential hardcore audience.
Oh god, how does this shit get made? The BBC could of spent the money on a new Snuff Box. Thank god for Peep Show and more Star Stories but how much Balls of Steel, The Friday Night Project, 8 out of Ten Cats, The Charlotte Church Show, do we have to suffer to get the former gems.
Update: No improvements in episode 2, the first five minutes or so explains everything that's going on and includes a clip of 'The Squid' again this time with another 'witty' pun on the poster. Some the supposed funny moments include: one of the guys from Banzai threatening Roman with a sword, unfunny use of a (not the) 'N' word, a character faking his own death and Roman casually committing his daughter to a stereotypical mental home, Roman not knowing what Romania is for comic effect (despite buying land in Bulgaria)....what hilarity.