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    Did anyone else watch it? I thought it was bloody fantastic. After foolishly sitting through the Jennifer Saunders thing before it I was ready for some good laughs, and they certainly came in droves.

    I think my favourite moment was in the ‘Heads or Tails’ (‘Millionaire’ pisstake) sketch when the 50-50 took away ‘Heads’ and ‘Tails’ leaving ‘Heads’ and ‘Tails’ as the remaining answers. I don’t know why but I just lost it! Also, ‘Do you like elephants? Do you like trains? Then you’ll love Elephants & Trains Magazine!’ It’s such a basic laugh but that’s why it’s funny. Why don’t the majority of comedians and comedy writers get that anymore??

    Peter is brilliantly talented and thank the Christ-child the material lived up to his talents.

    John Hoare

    I missed it, but I’ll find a copy and watch it tomorrow, as I have very high hopes for it.

    Here’s something interesting though – it’s completely pre-recorded, but they had a laugh track recorded for some episodes, in the same way that Red Dwarf VII did. But they dropped it, and cancelled the last audience recording session.

    Which is fascinating. I don’t think this is a production getting scared of laugh tracks – I think they just felt that, with a lot of TV spoofs, it would work better without one. But it’s interesting that they got so far as to actually recording some of them before dropping it.

    Hopefully the eventual DVD will have a second audio track on at least one of the episodes, so we can hear what it sounded like…


    I thought it was a very good start. Not as overwhelming as I found the first Mitchell & Webb (which was honed on radio first, of course), but promising. And the blend of real impersonations and generic ‘in the style of’ voices is working really well. Damn, that’s a good Alan Alda.

    Not every sketch was a winner, but the hit rate certainly guarantees a return visit.

    Jonathan Capps

    I thought this was absolutely cock on. I’m not entirely sure how he manages to pull off a none hackneyed Michael Caine, but he did, and it was brilliant. Probbaly my favourite sketch.

    Ian Symes

    Very hit and miss, but when it hit it *really* hit. I adored the bit where Michael Caine turned up in the back of Bob Hoskins’s shot. And ‘the worst man’ was fucking brilliant.

    Pete Part Three

    Agreed. Some sketches I laughed out loud at, some sketches annoyed me (specifically the robot chat-show host, which was awful). They over-milked a few things (the Big Brother spoof) but it merits a series link on the Sky+ box as Serafinowicz is always watchable.

    Is this all TV show/advert spoofs? I missed the first ten minutes and it certainly seemed that way.

    Interesting thing about the laugh-track. It’s extremely rare for a sketch-show to go without one, but I didn’t miss it at all.


    I thought it was watchable. Not as great as I’d hoped. Liked the O news bit,
    and the masterclass. Found the 1st sketch a bit too naked video, and I think
    it’s hard to do anything new with advert spoofs these days, but there’s
    no doubt he’s got a lot of talent, and the sureal nature of his look
    around you shows continued I felt with some of these sketches. Great to
    see benedict wong again.


    A love letter to TV
    Peter Serafinowicz on his new sketch show

    The vacillations of the American TV industry always come in for a lot of flack. But if it wasn?t for the delays and rethinks of indecisive networks, Peter Serafinowicz wouldn?t have his own BBC Two show tonight.
    It was while he was bored in Los Angeles, hanging around between auditions and a role in a sitcom that never aired, that the actor shot a comedy sketch for his own amusement. Then he banged it on YouTube where it so impressed Beeb bosses that they decided to put his name in lights. And with a name as long as Serafinowicz, that?s quite a lot of bulbs.

    The fairytale passage to primetime was surely help by his previous form. He?s appeared in everything from Shaun Of The Dead to Black Books, not to mention the cult success of spoof science show Look Around You, and the voice of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.

    But, over a coffee in a family deli near his West London home, he insists it was the YouTube clip which swung it ? cutting through months of meetings and pilots to get the commission.

    ?It?s probably the biggest reaction I?ve had to anything. It had something like 100,000 hits in three days,? he said. ?And where it would take months and months to turn your ideas into something people could watch, now you can put something together instantly.’

    The clip was a spoof Hollywood entertainment show, O! News, reporting on a bold new look for the Oscars statuette. It was inspired in part by the wall-to-wall TV coverage leading up to the awards in LA ? and partly down to sheer boredom.

    ?My girlfriend, Sarah Alexander, was out there doing a pilot called Teachers, that was very loosely based on the British version, and I went with her.

    ?I also heard they were casting for Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, for the role of a cast member/writer for this show that was supposed to be like Saturday Night Live. I?m a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and a huge fan of Studio 60 creator Aaron Sorkin, who also did The West Wing, so it was a part I really wanted

    ?I had to make up a sketch for the show. So I did an impression of Alan Alda, doing the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars, that whole hologram speech. They?d done things like that that on SNL before, stars? audition tapes for Star Wars, so I sort of nicked that idea but I didn?t think anyone?s going to do Alan Alda.?

    The Alda impression, which pops up in the BBC Two show, did the trick and he got down to the final two. ?We had to audition for Sorkin, which was terrifying to meet a hero. But I didn?t get the part, and I was really fucked off,? he admits

    But Serafinowicz did win another role, in a Friends-style show called Our 30s. ?Everyone was trying to do a version Friends, but set a bit later on ? when the characters are all in their thirties,? he says. ?But it just didn?t happen. The one I did, there were nine main characters ? far too many.?

    But he was still obliged to hang around in Los Angeles waiting for work to start on that aborted sitcom. ?I couldn?t do anything because I was committed to this show,? he said. ?So I had this idea of doing a showreel.

    ?Also, My brother James was bored back in England, and we?re like best friends as well, so I said, ?Why don?t you come out here and we?ll make something.?

    ?On the TV in LA, from about January everything on TV is Oscars, Oscars, Oscars ? they can?t help it that?s all they do there. So we decided on that. He had a video camera, a semi-professional one, about ?1,000 and I?m a bit of a whiz on my Mac, so we put it together very cheaply.

    ?It?s amazing what you can do these days. What used to be a ?1million studio in a Soho post-production house you can now do on a ?1,000 laptop and a few hundred quid for an editing programme.

    ?YouTube has totally democratised the whole process, too. The revolutionary thing about it was that you could email a link to someone and five minutes later they?d be watching it. You didn?t have to email a 5MB WMV file that would probably look shit, even if you could play it, and you didn?t need to make sure you had the right codec for it to work.?

    Codecs? WMV files? Serafinowicz is talking more like an IT geek than a cutting-edge comedian. But not only is the 35-year-old a self-confessed technofreak, his anoraky tendencies extend to comedy, too. His conversation drops the names of Saturday Night Live cast members, an obscure cult US series called Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! which he cites as a favourite, and even the NBC executive who championed Seinfeld, who he calls ?a bit of a comedy icon?. The man certainly knows his comedy stuff.

    Comedy seems to run in his family, too. His brother James, who co-wrote the new show, worked on the Brass Eye paedophilia special, Big Train and The Mark Steel Lectures (and they previously collaborated on Blankety Blank sketch for Comic Relief starring the cream of British comedy), while his brother-in-law is Father Ted and IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan. In fact, it was Linehan who introduced him to YouTube.

    ?He sent me this link to Chronicles of Narnia, these two white guys doing gangsta rap ? Andy Samburg and Chris Parnell from Saturday Night Live. It was brilliant ? one of the most perfect things: so silly, sweet and stupid.?

    Serafinowicz is genuinely enthused by the possibilities Web 2.0 creates. But isn?t there a fear that the cult of the amateur, and the fact that internet content needs to fit in to short chunks, means that the days of quality, long-form TV like his beloved West Wing could be numbered.

    ?Maybe,? he concedes. ?This show is like a love letter to television, before it all disappears. How will these old programmes survive when everyone will be able to download anything they want.?

    ?There?s not mystique about being on TV anymore. You see these people go on Jeremy Kyle and carry on their miserable lives as if the cameras weren?t there, there?s no prestige about it. That?s why we came up with Michael-6, a robot talk-show host (right). The people in our sketch just ignore him.?

    The Peter Serafinowicz Show was initially intended to be an impression-based show, but they soon broadened out the idea to encompass all sort of TV spoofs, from pared-down gameshows like Heads Or Tales, to adverts that make Cillit Bang?s Barry Scott look demure.

    ?There?s a definite naffness to doing impressions,? Serafinowicz says. ?Funny impressions can be funny in their own right, but often for about ten seconds, that?s it. That?s the sort of thing that put me off. It was a block for me.?

    His range of impressions was also limited by his size. He?s 6ft 4in and used to be quite heavy-set, although his stint in LA got him in physical shape too, as he embraced the Californian fitness culture.

    ?I thought I if I?m doing impressions, I need to be as malleable as possible,? he said. ?I?ve got distinctive facial features: big bulgy droopy eyes, big nose? There?s a limit to what I can do. I don?t want to impersonate people I don?t even look like, so I try to do people who have at least got similar features to me, like Paul McCartney or Al Pacino.

    ?So I?m limited anyway, and I didn?t want another obstacle, so I lost a lot of weight.

    ?Also, I thought if I?m going to be in America, you?ve got to be on top of your game. Not only is everyone there really funny and talented, everyone?s really fit, too.

    ?A friend of mine Amy Poehler, from Saturday Night Live, describes going to LA from New York as like coming out of a nightclub. You think you?re pretty cool, but then the lights come on a 3am and you realise your make-up?s all over the place, your clothes are a mess and you?re looking really haggard. That what it?s like getting off the plane in LA.

    ?You go for audition there and you sit in a room with six Brad Pits, three Keanu Reeveses and a Justin Timberlake ? and they?re all clever and witty and ultra-talented and that?s the world. You?re competing against these people, so you have to be your best.

    ?The image is that LA a nasty, soulless place ? and that is the truth ? but what is also true is that it draws immensely talented people from around the world.?

    Serafinowicz was especially pleased to meet South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker while in Hollywood ? and they asked him to voice the character of Darth Chef after Isaac Hayes sulked off the show, upset at their mocking of Scientology. ?They were real heroes of mine, and I got to meet them,? he says proudly.

    From the look of the new show, he has tried to capture some of the outrageous silliness of South Park ? without too much of its crudeness. That said, the most noticeable change to the redesigned Oscar statuette featured way back in that original O! News report was that it had a proud phallus.

    ?We wanted to make the statue different, and were racking our brains thinking what it could be. Then I said the phrase I think a lot of comedy writers have when they?re trying to think of something. They?ll say, ?Not this, but?? so I suggested ?Not this but? the Oscar has a cock.

    ?I think you say that if an idea feels a bit Route One, ?The Oscar has got a cock ha-de-ha?. But we didn?t come with anything better than that, and sometimes the simple idea is the best.?

    You can see how Peter Serafinowicz?s simple ideas worked out on Thursdays at 9.30pm on BBC Two.

    Interview by: Steve Bennett

    Turk Thrust

    Thought that it was a promising start but agree that it was too repetitive. Hopefully that won’t plague it throughout the series.

    The Martin Freeman sitcom pilot was more impressive last night and certainly deserving of a series.

    Mr Flibble

    I really liked the Cleaning Gun. The Heads or Tails thing was good too.

    It’s that style of comedy that’s pleasing because you’ve already worked out the (very silly) punchline, and what you expect happens.


    > ?My girlfriend, Sarah Alexander

    Lucky fucker.


    I liked it.

    That is all.


    The bloke in the Daily Mirror hated it. He clearly has no sense of humour.

    I thought the ‘one hair’ ad was outstanding.

    Ian Symes

    I read a review in thelondonpaper, that bastion of journalism, that ripped the show apart, despite it would seem, not having watched it. For example, it said the only joke in the Big Brother sketch was that “everyone was called Stevie”, rather than they were all clones. (Apart from anything else, that would still have been funny, due to Peter S saying “Shteeveee” over and over again, in his scouse voice, which is how all scousers talk.) And the coup de shit was them going on about “a Deal Or No Deal parody in which the contestant has to play heads or tails”. Yes, they parodied Deal or No Deal so bad!


    I think there is a Deal Or No Deal rip later in the series.

    John Hoare

    Tonight’s was the first one I’ve seen – slightly patchier than I’d have expected, but still masses of great stuff, and marvellously produced. They were definitely right to drop the laugh track, I think (although the Bond sketch had me wondering about the decision, the rest of the show vindicated it).

    The Fawlty sketch was my favourite, somewhat predictably.

    Jonathan Capps

    The Fawlty sketch was brilliant, but I couldn’t help but think that msot of the rest just wasn’t funny. It’s annoying, cos he’s a great performer, but I just wasn’t laughing like I was last week. For example, The Beatles impressions were absolutely spot on, but the sketch had no jokes.

    John Hoare

    Yes, I had a problem with the Beatles sketch, for exactly the reason you mention. And I had a similar problem with the QVC stuff – wonderfully produced, but where were the jokes?

    But there was plenty to laugh at, for me – the Butterfield stuff, and especially the second “You’re a C**t” sketch (gleeful in its obviousness) were particular highlights.

    Ian Symes

    Whereas I thought it all absolutely brilliant this week. The Butterfield sketch was awesome, as was the aforementioned Fawlty Chat Line and You’re a C**t. And I lolled at the Beatles.

    Tanya Jones

    I was very amused at the ‘Return to Sender’ parody.

    Turk Thrust

    I thought it was mostly dire. Last week it seemed promising but this week essentially had many of the same ideas, less successfully executed. It seems, to me at least, that they put all their best sketches into the first episode and very little left for week 2.

    John Hoare

    The Dickens sketch is a great example of a sketch I didn’t find that funny… until the final punchline (“Can I have some more… jam?, followed by Dickens’ FACE)… where it immediately transformed into one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

    John Hoare

    So, what did people think of the whole series then?

    As I suspected would happen, once I got into the whole world, I loved it. A few too many repeated sketches, certainly, but generally brilliant. Who Would Like To Win ?100? was fantastic.

    Turk Thrust

    I hate to say it but I thought the exact opposite. I thought that the first episode was good but they basically used up all of their decent ideas in that. As the viewing figures were poor and got worse, I really hope that they don’t commission a second series.


    Thanks for the link, John. I absolutely loved that.

    John Hoare

    I think there’s definitely the charge that there’s too many running sketches. Some people are rather over-sensitive to them these days, because Little Britain ran theirs into the ground – but it’s important to remember that nobody complained when Harry Enfield did shitloads of them. (Mainly because they were all very funny.) But even I would question whether we really needed six Acting Masterclass sketches, or all the QVC parodies, and so on. Most obvious in this regard was the chatline sketches – the Basil Fawlty one was by *far* the funniest (“No riff-raff”), and the subsequent ones added absolutely nothing to the idea.

    On the other hand, there was plenty that *did* work each week – the “Let’s…” PIF parodies, and obviously Butterfield. The sketch I linked to above was the stand-out in the last episode, but also great was Complico, “Sexual Christmas Time”, and loads others. Even the weaker sketches had stuff to recommend them – I found Cannibal Island fairly dull, until the hilarious BBC FOUR reveal.

    I really really hope there’s a Series 2 – but it definitely needs more standalone sketches.

    John Hoare

    Thanks for the link, John. I absolutely loved that.

    “That’ll help me get a few answers correct.”

    Seb Patrick

    I liked it, although there were definitely times when it went too long without a decent laugh. But even when that happened, you couldn’t fault the performances (Peter S is just brilliant – I don’t think a single one of his impressions failed to hit the mark, although Noel Edmonds faltered at times. But his Leonard Rossiter, Michael Caine and All Four Beatles were all wonderful) and the attention to detail. Much like Look Around You, you’d get a sketch going on for a while that was beautifully constructed (and, if a parody, uncannily accurate), but only gave you one or two genuine laughs. The best example of this is probably the “How to Live” series – I utterly loved them, but I can only think of one moment (“The worst man”) where they made me laugh out loud. Still, those sketches were worth it for Belinda wossname. And was that the Fresh Pegg doing the voiceover?

    Still, though, what made the whooooole thing worthwhile was the Butterfield sketches, which were the funniest thing I’ve seen on TV since… well, probably since before Mitchell and Webb, because I think they actually topped the original Numberwang, Digby Chicken Caesar and Hugh in the cornershop sketches. Last night I actually nearly choked to death while watching the detective agency again. “Croupier!” “Lord Mayor’s Croupier!” “Christmas Man!” “Theatrical ghost!”


    What little I saw reminded me of That Mitchell and Webb Look. That is to say, some excellent stuff and some right shit as well. I will attempt to watch it next time it is on.


    Does anyone else think Anthony Hopkins in the ?100 sketch?

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