In the UK: Mondays, 8.30pm, BBC3
The sitcom of the 90s was very definitely Friends. So it comes as something of a surprise for Adam Chase, one of the show’s producers, to be slumming it on BBC3 with Clone, a sci-fi sitcom about a mad government scientist who tries to create a super-soldier and ends up producing someone a bit ‘special’ instead.
Greater creative freedom and the chance to work out the kinks before pitching it to the US networks is the alleged excuse, and that’s fair enough. If some of the best writers of the US TV scene want to use British TV to experiment with ideas, I say let them.
The only proviso for that is that they’d better produce something funny. And Clone? Well, it’s very…
Plot (from another overly long BBC press release)
A new team-written comedy series created by Adam Chase, best known for his writing and executive producing roles on Friends, has been commissioned for BBC Three.
Clone opens with a brilliant scientist unveiling the result of his life’s work: the first human clone.
Intended to be a prototype super-soldier who will eventually replace Britain’s volunteer army, the Doctor quickly realises his super weapon is more likely to hug someone than shoot them.
Clone is a classic fish-out-of-water comedy revolving around the education of an innocent being who is seeing and experiencing our world for the first time.
It could also be described as a buddy comedy about a modern Dr Frankenstein and his monster.
Clone is the brainchild of Adam Chase and is the first commission from Ash Atalla’s new production company Roughcut TV.
The series will be jointly executive produced by Ash Atalla (The Office, The IT Crowd, Man Stroke Woman) and Adam Chase.
Ash says: “It’s a pleasure for Roughcut TV to be working with someone of Adam’s calibre. This gets us off to a great start and we are very excited to be working with BBC Three.”
The series was commissioned by Lucy Lumsden, BBC Controller Comedy Commissioning, and Danny Cohen, BBC Three Controller.
Danny Cohen says: “I’m thrilled that Adam Chase has come over from Hollywood to work with BBC Three – and it’s great to be working with Ash and Roughcut.
“It’s also really exciting to be experimenting with the team-writing model on Three: an approach we tend to use less frequently in British comedy.”
Is it any good?
…not bad. Certainly, it shows far more scope and ambition than most British sitcoms. The first episode essentially sets up the format for the comedy: mad scientist Jonathan Pryce and idiot creation (Stuart McLoughlin) move into a sleepy country village full of country bumpkins where they have to hide out from the military while Pryce tries to turn his failed creation into a success – with the help (voluntary or otherwise) of genius barmaid Rose (Fiona Glascott).
There’s a multitude of good lines – and a multitude of not very good lines. Some of the situations are obvious and clichéd. All the performances are gloriously over the top, sometimes amusingly, sometimes embarrassingly, and the central premise of the show feels weak – like it’s just an excuse to have a bloke peeing everywhere in place of decent plotting.
But, as with all comedies, the big test is: does it make you laugh? And I did laugh at Clone quite a bit, mainly thanks to Mark Gatiss as the Colonel running the clone project and the dialogue. And Glascott’s quite appealing, too, so that’s another draw.
I imagine once this cranks up to series proper, the format sets in and it becomes all-dialogue, this could be very funny. I’m not quite feeling the love at the moment, mainly because the clone is just irritating, rather than endearing, but I’ll try it next week to see if I’m right. At the very least, it’ll be fun to see if the BBC3 budget extends to something better than toy cars for the stunt scenes.
Here’s a clip from the show, followed by the first of the show’s weekly messages from Mark Gatiss to the CIA