This week’s episode of Jack Whitehall’s comprehensive-based comedy tackles the evergreen connection between video games and violence. Wisely, the game targeted here – Tokyo Sin SS Dead Light District – is an entirely original creation but connections to popular series are easily identified without being laid on too thickly.
We have here a pastiche of instantly recognisable games (such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed) combining Ninjas, Nazis, and ladies of the night, as well as and Abbey Grove’s reaction to the overwhelming popularity of the game. The response, when talking fails and a weapons amnesty is incredibly lacklustre, is to demonstrate self defence to the pupils, leading a question from Alfie that is familiar to any teacher: “Is this one of those things that’s going to happen whether I agree or not?”
Although the stakes seem smaller in this episode (there is no parental involvement unlike the past two weeks), this means we veer away from the central premise of Alfie getting himself into an ever collapsing spiral of cringing embarrassment. Thus, Bad Education has avoided the first trap of any sitcom: it has added a string to its bow and avoiding becoming too predictable too early in its run.
Indeed, whilst Alfie is a catalyst in his punishment during the episode, most of the responsibility belongs to Fraser, who is becoming more obliviously buffoonish as time goes by. The connection between his accidental adoption of a French education policy and the main plot seems tenuous to begin with, but eventually forms a gaspingly funny moment that you may have to watch through your fingers.
Also ticked off my wishlist this week is further development for the student characters. Stephen, Jing and Chantelle all benefit greatly this week. The series again bucks stereotypes with the character of Stephen – keep an eye out for his response to a deadly threat from school bully Grayson.
Despite not playing a major role in the plot, Deputy Head Pickwell gets a few great scenes, and there is some fine physical comedy between her and Alfie in the closing minutes that had me howling with laughter. In fact, a fair distribution of action and gags lends a real ensemble air to this episode which was perhaps missing from the first two instalments.
The script seems ever so slightly sharper this week as well, which is perhaps the reason for this improved characterisation. Self defence ‘expert’ Preet (Harry Peacock) shows a particularly fine combination of outrageously offensive dialogue coupled with an eerily accurate South African performance. You may find yourself rewinding just to check Preet’s dialogue is as foul as you thought it was.
This instalment ends with a surprising, if qualified, victory for one character, and it does one’s heart good to hear a gaming fad of my youth bore the younger generation (whatever happened to Pogs?).
This series could easily move up the ranks to one of the upper BBC channels – it’s a marked improvement on some of BBC One’s sitcom fare in recent years. However, like Russell Howard’s Good News, it seems tailored for BBC Three and has achieved the commission a second series already. May there be many more such continues in its future (Continues? I am such a retro gamer).
Aired at 10pm on Tuesday 28th August 2012 on BBC Three.
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