Thursday, 9 August 2012

Review: BEAVER FALLS, series 2

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Beaver Falls baffled me last year and continues to do so. It's a fun but derivative idea (three British blokes fly to a Californian summer camp with the intention of boozing, partying and shagging girls, only to discover they're at the bottom of the social ladder alongside some misfit kids they're tasked with entertaining), and it managed to justify a half-dozen episodes last year... but only by the skin of its teeth. The strange thing is, the story concluded perfectly well last summer; with the hapless trio finding love, triumphing over bullying jocks, and helping give nerds some self-respect. It even achieved an unexpected moment of poignancy; with the shock reveal that ladies' man Flynn (Sam Robertson) secretly has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and could die soon.

It wasn't a good comedy or drama, but the three lead actors displayed enough charismatic to pull you through the show's unoriginal elements and a very confused tone. But did it really need to come back?

I don't know why they bothered on the evidence of series 2's premiere. Best buddies Flynn, A-Rab (Arsher Ali) and Barry (John Dagleish) are back in Beaver Falls for another summer, which is immediately confusing because the camp's leader Bobby (Todd Boyce) detests them (particularly Flynn, who slept with his hot wife). A few things may have changed since last summer (the girl of A-Rab's dreams got married while he was gone), but it felt peculiarly like a weird reboot.

Still, I'm surprised and relieved the writers didn't split up geeky Barry and the beautiful Kimberley (Natasha Loring), although having them remain an unlikely couple robs Beaver Falls of a will-they/won't-they storyline that served it well last time. My guess is they'll break up fairly soon, and Barry will have to win Kimberley back again, because it's otherwise too dull to watch them canoodle in bliss--give or take the odd misunderstanding and Barry's foolish behaviour that rocks the boat.

Maybe my memory's playing tricks on me, but I got the impression Flynn's days were numbered because of his condition—or at the very least we'd find him physically impaired—but the only notable change to Flynn was having an arm in plaster. And it feels like a catastrophic decision to bring back the same goofy kids from series 1, with the addition of a new oddball called Maurice (Clive Holloway). Were any of those characters deep enough to fuel more stories? They had their social victory and learned some life lessons last summer, so it would have made more sense to bring in fresh faces. Ditto the very annoying Bobby and his MILF wife Pam (The Last Crusade's Alison Doody), who were easily the worst part of series 1.

So, fundamentally, there's no compelling reason for Beaver Falls to have continued from a storytelling perspective. We've seen what it can do, and to it wasn't that good in terms of plot and jokes. The show could have been a joyous confluence of Porky's, Ernest Goes to Camp, The OC, and The Inbetweeners, but it's just not happening—despite, as I said, some affable performances from Robertson, Dagleish and Ali. And you can't really complain about the number of times Natasha Loring gets to wear a swimsuit.

Maybe it's just been pitched wrong. The show feels like something holidaying school kids would lap up during the summer mornings, yet it's airing at 10pm—which suggests, together with occasionally risqué dialogue and references, that Beaver Falls is chasing the 18-34 demographic. There's nothing wrong with that choice, but the show feels like it should be aimed at a much younger crowd. It's too juvenile to appeal to young adults, but too adult to be responsible programming for the under-12s. My guess is the success of E4's The Inbetweeners steered this show's creative direction too much.

Still, Beaver Falls passes an hour quite well, thanks to a likeable cast and some gorgeous locations (South Africa posing as California), but the comedy isn't very inventive and everything feels desperately imitative. There's a funny idea and a good TV show entangled in the DNA of Beaver Falls, but it needed sharper writing, and definitely didn't deserve or require a second trip.

Mondays, E4 – 10PM