Twenty Twelve Review: Fun and Olympic Games

TWENTY TWELVE: Monday 14th March, BBC4, 10pm

Where the hell would we be without civil servants? Well, minus one very bankable topic for comedy it seems. The next group of tax-siphoners on the BBC’s agenda are the people with the unenviable task of making sure the run-up to London 2012 is as smooth as possible. In real life these poor sods have been keeping their heads down since recruiting a rather untalented five-year old to design the Games’ official logo, but with 500 days to go before it all kicks off, writer John Morton has shoved them back into the limelight once more.

In keeping with the BBC’s modus operandi of late, this comedy has taken an understated approach to the whole affair, but Twenty Twelve is much closer to the riotous Thick Of It than the rather confusing Roger and Val Have Just Had An Uneventful Day – which is no surprise considering its subject material. Many of the characters here show some potential, but the show can’t quite rival Armando Ianucci’s political spoof. Hugh Bonneville is fine as the single sensible member of the cast who spends the entire episode in a state of deep exasperation, but there are no show-stealers to make this a truly memorable piece of television.

Indeed when examined closely, Twenty Twelve actually has more in common with Come Dine With Me than any other show on the box at the minute. We are treated to a bunch of self-important but ultimately rather gormless idiots, one normal person who is responsible for relating to the viewer and a hilarious narrator. In this case, one David Tennant deadpans his way through the events on screen in hilarious fashion. (“It has recently become increasingly clear to Ian that he’s going to be having a weekend away with his wife in Barcelona..”)

As the former Doctor informs us, tonight the Olympic Deliverance Commission is preparing for a landmark date in the countdown to the Games (something they have imaginatively dubbed ‘1000 Days Day’) and they’ve hired a standardly effusive artist to design a massive clock which will tick down to the opening ceremony. Maddeningly annoying advertising exec Siobhan Sharpe is his main beté noire and she circulates the words ‘like’ ‘literally’ and ‘cool’ until your head spins. However the one thing that might get inhabitants of the capital wondering is the bloke in charge of traffic flow. By the end of the episode his experiments have brought London to a complete standstill..