Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Fried and Top Coppers, BBC Three's Ambitious New Comedies

At the end of summer, BBC Three, the youth centred network which is set to close by next year, premiered two new ambitious comedy series.

Top Coppers premiered on August 19 2015 on BBC Three and follows the adventures of cops John Mahogany (Steen Raskopoulos) and Mitch Rust (John Kearns) as they attempt to rid the fictional world of Justice City from its deranged criminal underworld.
The universe and its characters are derived from the conventions of American and British cop shows of the 70s and 80s, from Starsky & Hutch to The Professionals, but is set in no specific time or country.
The home of the show is Justice City Police Department, again, inspired by cop shows of the 70s and 80s; the Station Floor, Chief's office, Interrogation Room, Helga's Lab, The Locker Room, The Car, Mayor Brady's office, Prison Cell.
The series was created by Cèin McGIllicuddy and Andy Kinnear. While the series is stylistically attractive and the sets used are profound when compared to other BBC sitcoms, the show's humour often falls flat. 

Unfortunately, the weakest links tend to be the two starting characters, John and Mitch who are neither appealing, relatable or funny. They are the usual slackers who somehow manage to muster the effort to complete their job of tackling crime and arresting criminals by the end of the episode all while avoiding being fired. 
In fact, in the first episode, the cop duo manage to cause thousands of pounds worth of damage in the only funny moment in the show in which they chase a ice cream truck which eventually explodes.
Just like any other cop spoof comedy, the chief has to be an angry black man. In some cases, like in the superior Brooklyn Nine-Nine which stars Andre Braugher, the chief in Top Coppers is played by Donovan Blackwood who manages to convey as surprisingly convincing American accent.
While Top Coppers has amazing cinematography, sets and production in comparison to other British sitcoms, especially BBC Three shows, Top Coppers fails to arrest any jokes or truly funny moments. 
Fried is the second sitcom BBC Three premiered at the end of summer. This Croyden set show is based in a fried chicken shop called Seriously Fried Chicken and follows the working and personal lives of it's eccentric employees. 
The six episode series comes after a successful 2014 pilot episode which aired on BBC iPlayer and later on BBC Three as part of the Comedy Feeds initiative. The series was created by brothers Henry and Jack Williams. 
The series stars Katy Wix as insecure boss Mary, Simon Greenall as shady second in command Derek, chicken mascot Ed played by Imran Yusef. Some Girls alum Mandeep Dhillon plays easily agitated new employee Anal, a possible love interest for the young and awkward Joe played by William Melling. Rounding out the cast is the assertive Jamaican employee Shontal played by Llewlla Gideon. 
The first episode centred on manager Marg going undercover as a new Spanish male employee to weed out the staff meme et who made complaints about her to head office.
While the writing in the first episode of the series is creative, charming and results in several moments throughout, some characters seem one dimensional and borderline annoying. It's fantastic seeing a Jamaican character in a British sitcom, especially one set in an urban London area like Croyden although, Shantal is mostly seen shouting or yelling at someone or something. 
The most annoying aspect of the show is the character Ed who's only redeeming quality is the fact he spends most of the episode in a chicken costume with shifts covered. The Ed character is our comic relief character we have seen several times before. The socially awkward guy who believes he is far more popular and sexually promiscuous than he actually is. The writing doesn't allow Ed to be original, likeable or relatable in any way. 
The original pilot which aired in 2014 seemed to set up the show as a coming of age story for Joe and his budding relationship with Anal, who also starts working in the pilot episode. Despite this being another used story line, it would have given Joe something significant to do during the premiere episode and made Anal more than just the frustrated newcomer who manages to work a night shift by herself.
The episode's highlights are whenever the naïve and eager to please boss Mary is on-screen with Derek, a meek deputy boss who is clearly frustrated by Mary's job position. Their weird relationship which consists of a combination of a feud/best friendship is a welcomed silver lining of originality and humour. The more conflict between both characters, the funnier Fried will become. 
Both Fried and Top Coppers are ambitious sitcoms which aim to refresh the British comedy landscape by aiming for youth viewers. While Top Coppers is mostly disappointing, Fried has the potential to become a hilarious weekly must see if BBC Three decides to keep it around after their move to online programming! 

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