‘Twenty Twelve’: Episode 2 review

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After an opening episode that some felt was disappointing, given the quality of the writer and cast, it’s a relief to announce that the second instalment of Twenty Twelve is very much up to the high comic standard of John Morton’s previous work.

Neither the news that the actual Olympic clock (amusingly lampooned in one of the better strands of last week’s episode) has stopped working nor the allegations (strenuously denied by the BBC) that the series has stolen ideas from an Australian comedy about the 2000 Olympic Games can detract from an extremely funny half-hour of television.

Whereas the first part laboured between mockumentary styles, ending up in some rather bleak no-man’s-land where The Thick Of It, The Office and even Come Fly With Me were distant blips on the horizon, Episode 2 finds its feet, its funny bone and its place within the genre all at once.

Delivering the same mixture of laugh-out-loud amusement and I-can’t-watch embarrassment with an aplomb worthy of its illustrious predecessors, the episode sees Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) and his team from the Olympic Deliverance Committee attempt to take a group of Brazilian delegates from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics to a lunch meeting with Sebastian Coe – with predictably disastrous results.

Ironically enough, given that Bonneville looks a little more like a  healthier version of Bill Murray with every passing day, a great deal of the humour stems from things getting lost in translation. An interpreter (played, excellently, by Karina Fernandez) is on hand to translate everything from English to Portuguese, but she inevitably makes a number of mistakes, mistranslations and – when the committee start to cover up the cock-ups with lies – deliberately tells the Rio delegates the truth about what’s going on. Best of all is the moment when Fletcher apologises for the delay and jokes: ‘Lord Coe has promised not to eat all of the cheese and pickle sandwiches,’ which the interpreter refuses to translate at all.

Speaking of the Chairman of the actual London Olympic Games organising committee, it is perhaps no surprise that one of the few disappointments of this week’s episode is the appearance of Sebastian Coe. He has little to do except be himself, yet somehow fails to deliver either a realistic representation of his real self or a self-deprecating send-up – Carl Weathers in Arrested Development he is most certainly not.

Thankfully, that is just one very small turd floating in the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Everything else fits as snugly as a pair of Speedos – even David Tennant’s narration, which in the previous episode strayed from the dead-straight path upon which it has to walk in order to work, is spot on. After a shaky start, Twenty Twelve is now definitely moving up the leader board.

Airs at 10pm on Monday 21st March 2011 on BBC Four.

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