Saturday, 5 May 2012

VIP, 1.2 - episode two

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Impressions shows are amongst the toughest of TV genres to review, because there's little to say beyond listing which impressions worked, which didn't, and which sketches made you laugh, and which didn't. And even that's all very subjective. But after last week's promising start, I was relieved to see that episode 2 of Very Important People (VIP) was possibly better in some respects. It felt like there was more crammed into the 30-minutes, and there was plenty of new impressions to sit alongside the recurring ones. If nothing else, VIP is achieving a regular half-dozen laughs from me, per episode, purely through Morgana Robinson's version of Amy Childs gurning every other sentence.

Morgana's Russell Brand was also brilliantly observed in terms of dialogue and body-language, although it's impossible for her to imitate the deepness of a man's voice. She's naturally better with the women, although I was disappointed her attempt at Dragons' Den's Hilary Devey was lacking. Although the harsh makeup and the lunacy of the sketch (Hilary flashing her crotch, Basic Instinct-style, which was revealed to be a jabbering man's face), somehow overcame the weakness of the impression.) It sounds like I'm being harsher on Morgana this week, but she's still a genuinely absorbing screen presence. Her facial expressions alone are TV gold, and she can transform herself with aplomb; going from bug-eyed gormless (breathy Natalie Cassidy) to drop-dead gorgeous (a twee'er version of Sophie Dahl, getting high on mushrooms).

The emphasis this week was more on Morgana's cohort Terry Mynott, whose impression of David Attenborough and Terry "Wa gwan" has really grown on me already. It's just a shame this episode's main recurring sketch was its weakest: Barack Obama as the Jon Stewart-esque chat show host of "Live From The White House". I'm really not sure what this was trying to say about the current US President, beyond the fact he's slick and "showbiz", but is that really true? The best impressions are those that crystallise something we're all thinking about deep down, or have recognised in famous people. It's the little things brought to the surface through another's interpretation. I wish VIP was more interested in getting under celebrity skin in such a way.

As it stands, so far it's been a procession of amusing ideas and sketches (Bear Grylls "surviving" in an urban environment after being thrown out by his wife, for example). Some more relevant than others, as this episode involved a sketch where Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley zoomed around in a motorised sofa, literally chasing scarce Daybreak viewers. A fun idea, but both presenters have long since left Daybreak, and the show itself was axed in recent weeks. It just goes to show how much impressions shows thrive on topicality, as you were just left scratching your head over an outdated joke.

Still, VIP already feels more worthy of your time than anything we've seen in the genre lately, but that's a question of taste. You get more impressions from the likes of Jon Culshaw on BBC1, but his targets are family-friendly in an early-evening timeslot. I much prefer a show like VIP that's pushing boundaries post-watershed, even if the standard of impressions isn't as robust and the jokes sometimes puerile. Although, as I keep saying, Morgana Robinson's an absolute marvel you can't take your eyes off.

Fridays – Channel 4, 9.30PM