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Culture House Daily

First look at the BBC’s BBC mockumentary W1A

20 March 2014

12:05 AM

20 March 2014

12:05 AM

So, OK, here’s the thing with W1A: it’s just as brilliant as 2012. So that’s all good.

By which I mean the two most memorable characters from the BBC’s Olympics mockumentary – Siobhan Sharpe and Ian Fletcher, whose catchphrases bookended the paragraph above – are back in the BBC’s BBC mockumentary. Last night’s first episode saw Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) appointed as the corporation’s new Head of Values, reunited (against his will) with brand expert Sharpe (Jessica Hynes). Their first crisis was who should present Britain’s Tastiest Village, after Clare Balding had to pull out due to filming commitments on ITV’s How Big Is Your Dog?

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John Morton, the writer of both series (I mean W1A and 2012, not Britain’s Tastiest Village and How Big Is Your Dog?), is beyond great. He’s in the ‘makes it look so easy you think you could do it’ league. His characters are so perfectly formed that you assume they really exist, and all he’s had to do is follow them round and take notes.

Mind you, you could say Morton had a head start with W1A: he’s presumably more than a little familiar with the BBC’s internal workings, something that would make him simultaneously the luckiest and unluckiest man in the world. Several of last night’s jokes weren’t actually jokes. Fletcher, for instance, had to go on a course before he was allowed to work in New Broadcasting House. Real members of staff at the real BBC have to do this. Really.

Auntie is also beyond satire when it comes to her jargon. When I worked there in the late 1990s, the TV commissioners said they wanted their programmes to have ‘the smell of now’. We pitched them a TV version of a radio show I was involved with: they took 9 months to make a decision. By which time the smell had gone off somewhat.

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