***½ (out of four)
You probably haven't heard of The Dawson Bros. They're a trio of comedy writers (brothers Steve and Andrew Dawson, joined by friend Tim Inman) who have been contributing material to various TV comedies over the years—from That Mitchell & Webb Look and The Peter Serafinowicz Show, to The Friday Night Project and Balls Of Steel. They've also written for the UK strand of website Funny Or Die, which feels like the closest thing to their recent BBC commission Dawson Bros. Funtime.
It's a sketch show pilot, commissioned by BBC Three as part of their "Feed My Funny" web strand, targeting the fertile and increasingly popular sub-culture of the internet and gaming. And it's very funny. In fact, it's so amusing I hope a full series is made for TV broadcast immediately. Funtime is the funniest sketch show I've seen in years, with far more hits than misses (a genuine rarity in the genre), and would be an instant hit if it wasn't tucked away online. I only stumbled upon the show thanks to a link on my Twitter feed (which I duly re-tweeted with enthusiasm), but perhaps that's exactly where the show's core audience of tech-savvy geeks will find it. I hope so.
As I said, the targets of Funtime are almost exclusively focused on the internet and gaming culture. There's an iPad advert opening the tablet up to the equine market, a tour guide offering excursions via the internet, a very funny "Movie Piracy Awards" show (Megaupload was part of the "in memoriam"), a spoof of Sherlock where Holmes is debilitated by the amount of deductions he makes that are visualized as floating text, a version of Twilight with an Egyptian mummy as an unlikely love interest, a parody of motion-sensor games consoles, a very funny sketch about internet pornography going social and embarrassing its users, and a bravura music video about stalking girls through Facebook (that owes something to the work of Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg). You can take a look at some highlights for yourself:
If you're giggling already, you need to watch this show on the BBC's iPlayer immediately. It's definitely precise in its target (under-34s who love technology and marinade themselves in pop-culture), but that's no bad thing. It knows its audience, which is great, and if you're part of the demographic it's aiming for you should enjoy this. The sketches are brilliantly paced, the performances from the cast of unknowns were great (take a bow Chris Kendall, Cariad Lloyd, Jenny Bede, and Mike Wozniak), the laughs come thick and fast, and even its most obvious jokes/ideas add something unexpected to make them palatable.
My only concern is that a full series wouldn't quite go the distance, because this pilot scratches a lot of immediate itches. I have to wonder if a third, fourth and fifth episode would be as hilarious, once the Dawson Bros have offloaded most of their best ideas and have to start finding targets that are a little more unexpected. But as pilots designed to grab people's attentions go, Funtime is an unquestionable success. A half-hour of almost non-stop laughter, if you're attuned to its geeky sensibility, topped off with a voiceover from Peter Serafinowicz himself—whose own comedy style this show definitely compliments.
I demand more, BBC Three...
Watch the whole pilot here, if you're in the UK.