A Very British Problem

very british problems

You may not be aware but this whole internet thing is so hot right now and the old-timey mediums like print media and television are dying to sprinkle themselves with some online fairy dust. It’s all part of a bid to remain ‘relevant’ and ‘current’, although being relevant and current is very much like being powerful – if you you have you tell people that you are, then you probably aren’t. One of the newest strategies is to transistion popular people from an online medium onto television. This is the kind of logic that gave Dapper Laughs his own television show. Emboldened by that glorious success, television is trying again, this time via a Twitter account called VeryBritishProblems.

Translating a 140 character tweet or six second Vine into a considerably longer format is a challenge. The quickfire delivery of the content is the internet star’s greatest weakness and greatest strength. On the one hand, it removes the potential for nuance. On the other, it’s over before anyone got a chance to dwell on how annoying and repetitive it was. There’s only so much VeryBritishProblems you can read in one sitting before the anecdotes about drinking tea, making tea, saying sorry when not at fault, not wanting to make a fuss, and something to do with a biscuit before they all blend into one and you’re suddenly incredibly aware of your own mortality. VeryBritishProblems is the abyss and the abyss is very grey and very twee.

With that in mind, I’m very interested to know how this will translate to television. Presumably it’s going to be a comedy and a very British one at that. Given the state of British comedy, that means that there are only three viable options available. (Four technically, but let’s not even talk about sketch shows).

1. The Talking Head Show

Various celebrities of the past and present (it doesn’t matter which, no one will recognise them anyway) will sit in a well-lit room recounting pre-written anecdotes about being British in airy, happy voices. This will go on for about a thousand years. David and Carrie Grant will be two of the celebrities and, at one point, they will demonstrate their vocal range. Perhaps during a recollection about how a fly divebombed into a cup of tea then flapped around a bit and died. Richard Bacon will do the voiceover and how smug you perceive his voice to be will be directly correlational to your boredom.

2. The Panel Show

A man with a nice plummy voice, an unthreatening smile and a neutral suit will host. He will refer to the show as ‘the panel game that examines the quintessence of being British’ and smile like this is supposed to be a treat. There will be questions along the lines of:

“What do you do if someone makes your tea incorrectly?”
1. Drink it and don’t complain?
2. Ask them to make it again.
3. Fly into an existential panic and run in front of traffic.

David Mitchell will be on hand to deconstruct social norms and express an interest in being inside a lot of the time. The studio audience will laugh a little too loudly and for a little too long because they are middle class, polite and they’re paying £25 an hour to a babysitter to be there.

3. The Sitcom

A slightly gawky but not unattractive man has an exuberant mother and a taciturn, but not unlikeable father who he spends far more time with than is normal. He has a job in an office, which he commutes to. Both the job and the journey, and indeed his entire existence will be an endless series of mildly embarrassing episodes amid quiet dismay. He will have co-workers, one wacky and one pretty; but in a mousy, unassuming way so we know she is accessible. Episodes will focus on the management of a Very British Problem like:

1. How to react when someone won’t make space for a pregnant woman on public transport.
2. How to gently extricate yourself from a conversation with a loud pub racist.
3. How to explain yourself at A&E after sustaining crushing injuries to your genitals after slamming your penis in the photocopier at work trying to conceal an ill timed erection.

At the end of every episode the central character will return home. The credits will roll and he will proceed to dress in a three piece suit and a monocle, make himself tea using the good china , salute a picture of the Queen and devour a small piece of his own flesh to train himself not to show any discomfort – physical or emotional.

Actually, that sounds quite good. Someone should commission that.

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