tue 25/06/2019

The Wright Way, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Wright Way, BBC One

The Wright Way, BBC One

Awful, unfunny timewarp sitcom from Ben Elton

David Haig with his health and safety colleagues

Oh dear. Oh deary dear. Oh deary deary dear. To think that Ben Elton, who has a “written and created by” credit for this pile of poo, once helped to scale the heights of British comedy as co-writer of The Young Ones and Blackadder. Five minutes into this I was thinking, “How on earth did it get commissioned?” Oh I know, because Ben Elton, who once helped create...

The story, for all that it amounts to, concerns Gerald Wright (see what he did there with the title?), a nit-picking, pedantic, monotonous drone of a local government health and safety inspector - no stereotyping there, then - whose wife left him six months ago for her personal trainer after she could take no more of his obsession with how to stack the dishwasher correctly.

Wright's guiding principle is “The council pays us to minimise risk even when no risk exists.” That kind of health-and-safety-gone-mad joke wouldn't be out of place in a 1970s sitcom made by a tub-thumping Tory, but from the one-time scourge of Margaret Thatcher?

Elton had a few more of these timewarp “jokes”. An eye-rolling West Indian toilet cleaner (Brenda Edwards) was just one example of the programme's casual racism, and Wright (David Haig) says at one point: "As if I'd wash my backside in the sink. I'm not French.” But, fair's fair, Elton had troubled to bring the situation in the sitcom bang up to date, by having Wright's daughter, Susan (Joanne Matthews), who lives with him, be a lesbian. She's a plumber (but of course), and her girlfriend Vic (Beattie Edmondson) is posh yet vacuous and talks in "hashtag"- this and "d'uh"- that. And we all know that in sitcom-land a man living with women is going to lead to hi-lar-i-ous sharing-a-bathroom comedy: “She's female. She's in the bathroom. She'll never be finished.” Someone shoot me now.

Wright's colleagues at Baselricky council are another bunch of lazy sterotypes – a nervous overeater (Luke Gell), a clipboard-hugger who loves closing roads and causing maximum irritation to local taxpayers (Mina Anwar), and a bloke whose purpose Elton couldn't be bothered to explain but just stood around a lot looking gormless (Toby Longworth). There's a lot of standing around under Dewi Humphreys's direction, all the better to appreciate the sparkling wit of a line such as "Clive, talk me through my proud erection" as the team discuss speed humps.

David Haig is a hugely accomplished actor, but my commiserations to him and the rest of the cast, shouting all their lines as if to drown out their awfulness. I hope they were well paid for this execrable mess.

We all know that in sitcom-land a man living with women is going to lead to hi-lar-i-ous sharing-a-bathroom comedy

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I had read the previews of this, all of which were dire, but I thought I would give it a try anyway, partly because David Haig is such a fine actor, and partly to see if it was really as bad as everybody was saying. Well, I lasted about 5 minutes. It's even worse than everybody was saying.

I lasted two minutes of the ghastly droning Gerald on the iplayer then switched off at the cardinal sin of bad writing...exposition! Exposition about his wife leaving him and his Lesbian daughter. Lazy jokes about the dishwasher and I could take it no more! What happened to that writer who helped write Blackadder?

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