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TV Review: TWENTY TWELVE, 1.1

The docuspoof/mockumentary format feels curiously old-fashioned suddenly. It's the perfect approach to take with BBC4's Twenty Twelve, which charts the efforts of an inept Olympic Deliverance Commission to promote London 2012, but there was something too safe and cozy about the whole endeavour. Almost like it's a part of the Olympic marketing and, with a future cameo from Lord Sebastian Coe himself, that's probably half-true. So, rather than deliver a scabrous and insightful criticism of the Olympic Games, Twenty Twelve is just a quietly mocking series that elicits the odd giggle.
"Matthew Pinsent? I don't even know who that is." -- Siobhan
It's a shame, because the performances and a good portion of the dialogue are very strong, and the show itself had an engaging momentum to it. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) gets to flex his comic muscles as formidable team leader Ian Fletcher, with support from a talented cast that includes Amelia Bullmore (Big Train), Olivia Colman (Peep Show) and Karl Theobald (Green Wing), but the standout turn comes from Jessica Hynes (Spaced) as Siobhan Sharpe; a babbling, clueless businesswoman who can't give a straight answer, or start a sentence without stalling while she scrambles for an answer. Siobhan's a great example of an assertive but dimwitted corporate bullshitter, and Hynes grabs the role by her teeth. Adding to the reality is an easygoing, if occasionally over-explanatory, narration by David Tennant (Doctor Who), whose dulcet tones help give Twenty Twelve an agreeable vibe. In this opening episode, the team were trying to create a big public event to celebrate the milestone of 1000 days until the Games' opening ceremony. This "One Thousand Days day" soon descended into farce with the press outside Tate Modern, after Siobhan unveiled a giant clock, created by a trendy British artist that, confusingly, counts backwards from 2012 to the present day. Other bits of business included deciding on a list of torchbearers who represent the best of British (Alan Sugar, Bruce Forsythe, Gok Wan, Peter Andre), and the legacy issues of a Tae Kwon Doe stadium being built especially for the Games. It's easy to like Twenty Twelve, and I'm sure it'll be a grower once we become more acquainted with the ensemble of characters. The talent pool is too good for it to truly flounder, coming from the mind of writer John Morton (People Like Us), although this first episode wasn't enough of a biting attack for my taste. It was more a well-meaning rib tickle than anything particularly cutting-edge and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Still, given the subject matter's deadline, it's good to see a comedy designed for a two series run (at the most) that celebrates the forthcoming Olympic Games in typically British style: with an amusing look at the pen pushers we're all privately worried will mismanage the whole shebang in front of the entire world.
WRITER & DIRECTOR: John Morton CAST: Hugh Bonneville, Amelia Bullmore, Olivia Colman, Jessica Hynes, Vincent Franklin, Karl Theobald, Alex Beckett, Marcus Onilude, Nicholas Greaves, Leila Farzad & David Tennant (voice) TRANSMISSION: 14 March 2011, BBC Four/HD, 10.30PM
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