In the UK: Thursdays, BBC2, 10pm
I had high-ish hopes for this. It comes from the House of Armando Iannucci for one thing. It satirises modern news and televisual trends by pretending to look back on them from the perspective of 2031. It could have been The Day Today of our day.
But it wasn’t. It was kind of funny. It was clever. It made you wonder just how much time they’d spent trawling through the archives for clips they could doctor with CGI. But it wasn’t the side-splittingly funny show I was hoping for.
There were elements from plenty of Iannucci’s previous projects: the retrospective from the future by old people was a frequent part of The Armando Iannucci Show; the doctored footage will be familiar to anyone who’s visited Iannucci’s and Chris Morris’s Smokehammer; and the nonsense surreal news that he invents for the near future is very The Day Today and Saturday Night Armistice.
But while the Brown and Blair fights, waterlogged Leeds and Charlotte Church vomiting herself inside out were classic Iannucci with Morris overtones, they were a little too detached and clinical to be funny. It was like being given a series of clever palindromes.
The times when the show came alive was when real people were involved. I’m not talking just about Stewart Lee, Richard Ayoade and the like sending up the talking heads retrospective shows of today. Even Ayoade managed to be amusing and Lee was on form as usual. There was also a silly parody of The Dragons’ Den starring the dragons themselves that despite being the lowest brow moment of the show, was actually probably the funniest.
While Iannucci’s instincts appear to be more about clever ideas than actual jokes, when he goes against his instincts, he’s actually a whole lot funnier. When shed of the deadpan narration, Time Trumpet was a great show to watch. But although I hate to use the expression, it was perhaps “too clever by half”.