‘Twenty Twelve’: Episode 3 review

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After a so-so second episode, the latest “mockumentary” from the BBC delivers another fine blend of sitcom antics, character studies and catchphrases. Oh, and the “reality” of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The Olympic Deliverance team face yet more problems (well, we wouldn’t be watching if it was all plain sailing) in the form of the discovery of Roman remains on the site of the Aquatics Centre. Cue a stream of laughs as the redesign of the building prompts man-in-charge Ian Fletcher, played so stoutly by Hugh Bonneville, to ponder the results of making the diving pool shallower.

“It could have a knock-on effect for the divers,” retorts building supremo played by EastEnders‘ Nitin Ganatra. This scene also throws up some wonderful interplay between the two men (“Is it just me or is the common thread linking all these options is they’re not really options at all? and “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that ‘cos it’s meaningless,” for example) as the inane and functionless chat between the middle-men will resonate with anyone familiar with office-speak.

There’s more “now” office-talk in a sub-plot featuring PR nightmare Siobhan Sharpe (Spaced star Jessica Hynes), as the Head of Brand searches for an “audio logo” or “sonic branding”. Her repetition of “Can I hear it again?”, when presented with it by the composer, is straight out of Little Britain.

Hynes excels and seems to become more irritating as the episode proceeds. Her prompting of Kay Hope, played by Amelia Bullmore (Big Train), to “have fun” with sustainability is priceless, while another highlight is Siobhan urging Kay to think, “I want a piece of what I’ve got. And if your head’s not telling you that then maybe you’re in the wrong head.”

The catchphrases also dilute the nature of the documentary style, giving over to a more sitcom-ish or sketch-show feel (this is not a criticism). With ongoing gags such as the phone calls from Bonneville’s wife, the ever-increasing snacks for him to accompany his morning coffee, Graham’s jobs always to be completed by “Friday, this Friday?”, and Nick’s Northern-ness (“If you asked for sonic branding you got a clip round the ear, I don’t care who you are!”), Twenty Twelve is continually adding layers and flavours to the genre.

If there is a problem with the show it’s that all the characters, though played superbly (including narrator David Tennant), are a bit predictably dim. A damning, and probably accurate, depiction of ineffectual British management, but isn’t there anyone intelligent in charge of anything these days?

Anyway, this is a small point as Twenty Twelve proceeds to satisfy in numerous ways, from its more farcical and ridiculous elements, its catchprases and its reality-based scenarios to more highbrow concepts such as transportation routes. At this rate we hope that the Olympics are delayed so we can get more of this fun.

Airs at 10pm on Monday 28th March 2011 on BBC Four.

> Order the DVD on Amazon.