When the BBC advertised for a new ‘Head of Better’ recently, for many it was only the date – April 1st – that gave the game away. It was, in fact, a cheeky bit of viral marketing for W1A, the hit comedy in which the Corporation shrugs on a hair shirt, thrashes itself with birch twigs and generally beats itself up over its apparently unslakeable thirst for Orwellian doublespeak and corporate red tape  – all 360° platform synergies and ‘upstream influencing’ (that’s genuine Beeb jargon for talking to your boss).

In truth, of course, the BBC remains the finest broadcaster in the world. And W1A – John Morton’s sequel to his exquisite Olympic satire Twenty Twelve – is a brilliant example of that, not only because it has the courage to bite off, chew and spit back the hand that feeds it, but because it’s funny. Very, very funny.

In this week’s second series opener, a crisis was brewing when it emerged that the BBC might forfeit the rights to Wimbledon, which, according to David Tennant’s deadpan voiceover, it has broadcast ‘unremittingly’ for 80 years, and the loss of which could leave the corporation ‘with no live sports that people understand’.

Enter vacuous PR puffball Siobhan Sharpe (the brilliant Jessica Hynes – look, I know we all love Olivia Colman, but it’s surely Jessica’s turn for the BAFTA?). Siobhan’s W1A/W19 brand mash-up solution involved Novak Djokovik coming on court to the Doctor Who theme, while every Andy Murray point would be greeted by a blast of Strictly Come Dancing. ‘We just BBC’d Wimbedon,’ she congratulated herself. ‘We nailed this coyote.’

Elsewhere, there had been a complaint about the number of tossers in ‘the BBC sitcom Top Gear’ – a reference to the show’s language, not its presenters, though the running gag was given topical currency by a late edit in which every shot of Jeremy Clarkson was pixelated, and his name bleeped out.

And on top of all that, there was a royal visit that unravelled spectacularly, prompting the BBC’s security chief to tell Head of Values Ian Fletcher (a masterclass in comic bewilderment from Hugh Bonneville): ‘I’m sorry Ian, the world is full of rucksacks with Sue Barker’s face on.’

So, basically, that’s all good.

TV extra:

Peter Kay’s Car Share

Peter Kay’s first TV series in a decade is an understated and rather sweet romcom about two supermarket co-workers thrown together by an enforced car-pooling scheme. Kay’s John is a dialled-down version of his stage act, but the breakout star is co-writer Sian Gibson as the nervously over-sharing Kayleigh: ‘I love Forever FM – they play timeless hits now and forever,’ she burbled. ‘I wouldn’t say Martika’s Kitchen was timeless,’ muttered John darkly. If you want to see where their journey takes them, the full series is available to watch on iPlayer.



For a measure of how completely Britain has surrendered to Poldarkmania, consider that Aidan Turner’s hair now has its own Twitter following, while scything found itself trending for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

Turner out-Darcying Darcy was clearly the headline draw, but we shouldn’t underestimate Debbie Horsfield’s deft screenwriting, nor Eleanor Tomlinson’s career-making turn as Demelza, Ross’s fiercely clever Cornish wildcat bride.

It’s been a guilty pleasure, let’s be honest – more Barbara Cartland than Hilary Mantel – but a pleasure all the same. And the final episode was truly heartbreaking.


Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 30, 2015

(c) Waitrose Weekend