There's gobby Gary Garner, a loutish cockney cab driver who believes he's destined to become a superstar because he played a rat in a school production of "The Pied Piper Of Hamlyn" and his mates have foolishly inflated his ego. Gary's probably the funniest character, in that he's more forthcoming and therefore dangerous when interacting with people (like a celeb photographer who grows increasingly exasperated by Gary's know-all attitude when he arrives with the ashes of his dead porn star mother whose bequeathed fortune paid for his trip.)
It helps that Gary reminds us of a recent trend for ruffian Brits (Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones) who go to America and become ex-pat movie stars. The humour of an uncouth Brit infuriating Americans with his lack of social graces and arrogance is one of the funnier elements of the show, speaking as a Brit myself. The second episode's "networking" sequence, with Gary inadvisably telling everyone a painfully unfunny anecdote about a plate of spare ribs is particularly amusing, not least because Gary's lack of self-awareness and "big kid" idiocy seemed to eventually charm his beautiful mentor, Mina.
As the most "normal" character of the three, Brendan thus attracts the most open hostility (like a pair of middle-aged mountaineering friends he infuriates my insisting they must be father and son), and while also the least interesting character, Brendan's paradoxically the one who inspires the most Cohen-esque moments. In episode 2, a film producer reveals he's open to the idea of Brendan causing a life-threatening "accident" to improve a documentary's storyline, while in episode 3 Brendan goes undercover in blackface as "Obo" (President Obama's Kenyan cousin) and is patronized by the hosts of a dinner party celebrating his arrival in the US. The Obo sequences may play like a less incisive Borat skit (with the illogic of Brendan mixing drinks and popping pills while incognito glossed over), but it's otherwise very funny to see Americans letting an "African tribesman" smear mouse guts on their forehead.
Finally, we have Wootton's earlier cult hit: effeminate spiritual medium Shirley Ghostman from the short-lived "High Spirits" series, a prissy charlatan with feathery hair who's on the run from British authorities and trying to rebuild his career in the US. An amusing riff on the likes of Derek Acorah, Shirley's an obvious fraud who can't even "cold read" people effectively, and persistently tries to use his "gifts" to hypnotize incredulous receptionists into upgrading his accommodation, or putting holidaymakers into a "trance" while using their credit card for purposes of "numerology" (i.e using it to sneak off and pay his hotel expenses.)
Overall, La La Land won't change the comedy landscape because it's clearly following in the footsteps of superior trailblazers, but it actually tells a better serialized story than the Borat/Brüno movies managed and does land some unexpected punches that'll raise an eyebrow. This is certainly the best project Wootton's been involved with, and it kept me amused and entertained for three episodes, so I'll be tuning in for the second half.
PREMIERES - TONIGHT (27 APRIL 2010) ON BBC3, 10.30PM