‘Twenty Twelve’: Episode 1 review

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Slipping out with little fanfare, oh the irony, is a new “mockumentary” (no, stick with us) from BBC Four following the Olympic Deliverance team as they prepare London for the big event in 2012.

Although the format from John Morton (People Like Us) would at first glance seem overdone, the concept is strong and the characters are all familiar, with a cast that brings great experience to each role – experience, ironically, that their onscreen counterparts do not seem to possess.

As you can perhaps guess, Twenty Twelve focuses on the failures and eff-ups caused by inter-office politics and people who agree with everything but understand nothing. Calling this The Office 2.0 may be a tad unfair, but it’s apt.

The show does feature many tropes identified in the Ricky Gervais series, but a lot has happened in the past decade or so. This is where Twenty Twelve excels, identifying the changes and evolutions in the office environment and those who inhabit it. Here, there may be one “main” office, but the action moves from one location to another – the foibles of one fighting those of another.

One figure of particular hate and annoyance here is PR woman Siobhan, played with refreshing unlikeability by the usually loveable Jessica Hynes (Spaced). It’s refreshing too that the makers of this series didn’t follow the easy “sitcom” route and cast a young bimbo (no doubt Sheridan Smith, if this were not a BBC Four production). With her mantra of “yeah, cool” or “sure, totally” after everything, Hynes’ Siobhan is still a nightmare to work with and as ignorant as you could possibly imagine.

The cast are uniformly brilliant, with the always entertaining Olivia Colman (Peep Show) and Amelia Bullmore (I’m Alan Partridge) alongside Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as the manager who, despite his best attempts, is clearly not managing. David Tennant (Doctor Who) performs narration duties, eliciting a few laughs along the way.

Certainly the strong performances help gloss over the fact that Twenty Twelve is not “brand new”, as it were. And why should it be? With sharp lines like “Everyone’s talking about traffic lights like they’re sliced bread – it’s not a surgical bullet,” the show will certainly amuse no end -something every comedy should make its prime purpose.

Airs at 10pm on Monday 14th March 2011 on BBC Four.

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