Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.
The sit-com as a genre has been unwell for a good couple of decades now.
The new kings of comedy are the stand-ups who fill arena sized gigs, rather than having to make do with drinking men’s clubs and the back rooms of pubs.
But two sit-coms started new runs this week, one brand new and one on its last series.
Josh (BBC3) is Josh Widdicombe’s attempt to get into the big league with his own star vehicle with a ‘three house mates together and a landlord’ flat-based comedy – think of a Rising Damp for the 2010s generation.
Written by Widdicombe himself, along with Tom Craine, you might have expected Widdicombe to have given himself better material.
Unfortunately, he’s ended up being the lame duck in his own pond, as the bulk of the laughs and the chemistry go to flatmates, Kate (Beattie Edmondson), and Welsh womaniser Owen (Elis James), let alone landlord Geoff played by a rather animated (for a change) Jack Dee.
It’s a shame. I like Widdicombe. He’s been a great foil on Channel 4’s The Last Leg and his Fighting Talk (Radio 5 Live) has become a regular feature in my Saturday morning. But in Josh, you can’t get away from the feeling he’s only in the team because it’s his ball and his dad bought the kit.
Far funnier – and back for one last series – is Peep Show (Channel 4). It took me a while to find Peep Show, but it’s got quality written all over it. The stars, David Mitchel and Robert Webb, could easily have decided they had outgrown it as their careers have bloomed since the first series back in 2003.
Peep Show is well written and eccentrically shot with the use of to-camera dialogue – it also has that glaringly obvious ingredient of a sit-com, it’s funny. It’s also got the Channel 4 stamp all over it, which makes for a refreshing change for the broadcaster which all too often buys in its comedy rather than investing in its own brand for laughs.
Funny for different reasons was Masterchef: The Professionals (BBC2), which kicked off another round this week. Clearly, as in any job there are professionals, and there are ‘professionals’.
The first programme served up two of the six chefs who presented raw meat to judges Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace. This was preceded by some botched attempts to make floating islands on a crème Anglais. Let’s face it, you could throw cream, eggs and sugar at the wall and lick it off and it would taste good.
This is the pro version of the franchise and there can’t really be any excuse for ‘cooking under pressure’ – that’s what professional chefs do. But the early rounds are always more entertaining for the culinary car crashes rather than the cordon blur.
It was the last ever Lewis (ITV) this week. Poor old Lewis – just like Josh Widdicombe – is another character being outshone in his own namesake show. Laurence Fox’s DS James Hathaway has been casting a shadow over his boss ever since he met him off the plane in the first series in 2006.
The introduction of a Hathaway backstory in this last episode would be quite needless if it were to be the last we’ll see of him. The enigmatic Hathaway might yet provide the lead in the series of his own that viewers have been waiting for.
Christmas is coming, not because the goose is getting fat, but because the annual John Lewis Christmas advert has been released. This year’s Man-in-the-moon offering has stolen the media show and has done just what department store wanted – they’ve managed to brand the start of the Christmas spending spree with their name on it.
But being the Scrooge that I am, I was pleased to see the parody brigade were lying in wait for John Lewis. The first - and best so far - is the Star Wars parody, with the little girl spying not the moon, but the Death Star in the skies and Darth Vader looking back.
All proving that millions of pounds and a team of advertising executives with all year to work with can be outdone by a couple of geeks in their bedrooms overnight.