thu 22/02/2024

Bluestone 42, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

Bluestone 42, BBC Three

Bluestone 42, BBC Three

Damp-squib start for sitcom set in a bomb-disposal unit

Boom boom: Captain Nick Medhurst and his bomb-disposal team in 'Bluestone 42'

Compile a list of the subjects you thought may be unsuitable for a sitcom, and it will almost certainly include a person with learning difficulties, assisted suicide and an army bomb disposal team.

Well all three of those now exist – Derek and Way To Go have just finished their first series on Channel 4 and BBC Three respectively, and on the latter channel last night Bluestone 42, set in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, made its debut. And while the makers may have had a modern-day M*A*S*H in their heads, they have some way to go before reaching that comedy's heights - they don't even reach the level of It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

It started with someone getting his brains blown out by a sniper, a loud-mouthed CIA observer (Mike McShane, pictured right) ("When I was in Fallujah...") who - inexplicably for someone who had seen decades of active service - took off his helmet while out on patrol. Soldiers simply don't do that, no matter how hot it gets, although it has to be said the response to Bluestone 42 from servicemen and women has so far been mostly positive. I suspect, however, those bloggers aren't serving on the frontline; as the excellent Our War taught us, war kills people, messily (IEDs in particular), and there is no way you can make a feelgood sitcom about that.

That opening may seem daring, until you consider that we didn't see even a drop of blood, and in making McShane's character a boorish American the writers, James Cary and Richard Hurst (who, incidentally, have written on Miranda), indulged in lazy stereotyping and what in some quarters is considered an acceptable bit of reverse racism. I daresay we won't be seeing a local meet his death in a similarly cartoonish way over the following seven episodes.

Other than that, Bluestone 42 followed standard sitcom lines, of a group of mismatched individuals thrown together in another workplace comedy complete with annoying bosses, wacky characters and piss-taking banter.

Captain Nick Medhurst (Oliver Chris) leads a bomb disposal team. He's wisecracking, good-looking and laidback and his men include his right-hand man Millsy (Gary Carr), wannabe officer Simon (Stephen Wight) and a double act of two Scottish dogsbodies, Mac (Jamie Quinn, pictured left with Oliver Chris) and Rocket (Scott Hoatson), whose sole purpose appears to be, well, being Scottish. The only female on the team is Bird (Katie Lyons) - "called Bird, but it's OK cos that's her name" - who can burp and swear as loudly as the blokes.

Last night, Mary (Kelly Adams) the new padre, joined the base and was immediately dubbed Sister Mary despite not being a nun. She has to be female, of course, because the writers have to introduce some sexual tension in proceedings for charmer Nick, who can't consort with a non-officer.

Oliver Chris is watchable in anything - he was the funniest Bottom I've seen - but the unsubtle writing demands that he and the other actors have to telegraph emotions by gurning, and the swearing (it's shown after the watershed) is nowhere near as offensive and inventive as it should be. The gallows humour was also missing, represented here merely by one sapper's references to the dead American being greeted by "shut up" by his colleagues, and his feeble (and clichéd) response of "too soon?"

It's an interesting subject for a sitcom and I hope it settles into something less predictable and bland. But unless it turns into the new M*A*S*H - an angry satire about the futility of war that was often laugh-out-loud funny - and the writers dare to portray the sometimes grim farce of war with wit and elegance, the question will remain whether Bluestone 42 was worth making at all.

  • Bluestone 42 is on BBC Three on Tuesdays
The swearing (it's shown after the watershed) is nowhere near as offensive and inventive as it should be


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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What an unmitigated waste of broadcasting time and the licence payers money. This is about as funny as the contents of a navvies lunch packet. Fail.

Cliche characters, poorly written, if you thought Miranda was bad, this is way below that. Should have asked Chris Morris how to write "cutting-edge" rather than dip into the floating abyss that already makes up the majority of current BBC comedy writers.Out of touch - overpaid.

As the stepmum of an officer who was an ATO who was killed by an IED while out on patrol in January 2010, I am appalled by this programme and its contents. These men are highly skilled and they were made to look like buffoons. Shame on the BBC.

Loved it, even if only because it was refreshing to have a sitcom without the usual pathetic canned laughter. 10/10

Having seen the second episode of this comedy drama, I can honestly say it will be the last. I was appalled to hear them using the "C" word and am just fed up with the constant swearing to "make it seem realistic and funny". The characters in no way reflect the professional soldiers who risk their lives every day. The black humour is spot on, which is the only way they deal with life, as is the constant swearing, but the series would be better if this was kept to a minimum

Oh dear, you poor middle class people. To have been forced to watch this superb little sitcom about soldiers and their daily lives. It must have eaten into your Glyndebourne and 'Midsommer Murders' schedule most terribly. It is a brave act to make a comedy about a current (or even recent) war. It is a triumph to make one that is funny, and acceptable to the soldiers that served (and continue to serve). Sure there are technical discrepancies but on the whole the squaddies who comment on sites like ARRSE forgive them, and if anything complain that the swearing and sexual joking have been toned down. To make an honest drama about the war would have been to watch men filling in forms and performing safety checks for 40 minutes a week. Much of modern warfare beats civilian health and safety into a cocked hat. Then there are hellishly scary half hour interludes. To balance the tension the modern soldier uses crude and deeply offensive humour amongst other team building psychological tools... but mainly really offensive jokes. These cannot be shown on TV, even after the watershed but Bluestone 42 comes close and is a triumph in showing us a close knit team with their own internal dynamic.

I am throughly enjoying the whole thing, my brother is enjoying it aswell who IS in the army. Its a welcome break from all the bad news about soldiers dieing, its sad to lose people, and no disrespect to the dead, but this is what happens out there, as to the refference from the ATO's stepmum, i think this is a good portrayal of them, when something needs doing he will have a banter but ultimately he will take responsibility and deal with it, i dont think they are made to look like blundering fools, i see them as the couragous and brave people soldiers really are, every character is different like in the army they all had different reasons for joining the army and they each bring a different piece of the puzzle to the group, like in the real army, just because there is a bit of swearing and some slighlty shocking jokes, doesnt mean its a crap representative of army life, remember it is a comedy not a documentary, they have just taken out the majority of the stress that soldiers face and kept all the mechanisms for dealing with the stress, I think it is funny, heartwarming and engaging showing us a side to the army that is rarely seen, I suppose some of you didnt like the hurt locker because there were a few jokes in it or thought war horse wasnt anygood because it instilled too much emotion. but my opinion is they have a few things out on the technical side of things, all the cast are determined to do real soldiers justice and that they have achieved it, this series makes me realise how stressfull it must be, more than ever, but realising that while they are over there they have a family, who will look out for them and who they can laugh or cry or do whatever with, allows me some peace knowing that if they dont come back then they had some fun, and they had family around them.

I love this show, so does my husband who is in the army, As do many of his fellow soldiers. All those saying it's a disgrace and they're made to look like buffoons, They aren't. As for the swearing hearing someone on telly swearing is not going to kill you, get over it. I can not wait for the next series! If you don't like it change the bleeding channel, don't cry about it.

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