W1A, John Morton’s sitcom about the BBC’s endless propensity for navel gazing as it lurches from one self-made crisis to the next, follows on from smash-hit Olympic-themed series Twenty Twelve and is just as funny.
The action, such as it is, takes place in a succession
of meeting rooms in Broadcasting House underneath huge pictures of Mary Berry, Frankie Howerd and Nadia Hussain, as Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) and his team try to make sense of how to improve the BBC’s image ahead of the corporation’s charter review.
“The fact is, this is about us identifying what we do best and finding more ways of doing less of it better,” director of betterment, Anna Rampton (Sarah Parish) says, at one point with David Tennant’s gloriously deadpan narrator putting it even better when he talks of the BBC’s exciting new “opportunity to question everything it does, and ask the question whether there’s any point to any of it at all any more”.
Of course this is all terribly self-indulgent but it’s hard not to applaud the BBC for allowing themselves to be so mercilessly mocked on their own channel.
And it’s relatable too, as anyone who has sat through interminable marketing meetings where nothing is said except for pointless platitudes and you leave none the wiser about what your job is or what you are supposed to be doing.
Star of the show is probably Jessica Hynes, whose wonderful portrayal of Siobhan Sharpe is an utter joy and steals every scene.
Desperate to keep up with whatever latest PR trend she’s read about, Siobhan is an expert in all aspects of communications theory, with the single exception of how to apply any of it.
She comes up with the idea to turn the BBC into a user-led version of YouTube (BBC ME) where gender doesn’t exist anymore. BBC Three anyone?
Like it’s spiritual forerunner The Office there’s plenty of moments of pathos too with Will’s (High Skinner) unrequited love for Izzy (Ophelia Lovibond) a rather lovely subplot to the comedy.
Morton has said this will be the last series which would be a shame.
Perhaps the BBC could have a meeting about it?