‘Twenty Twelve': Episode 4 review

images_160x90_T_twenty twelve

Joining the gang in the Olympic Deliverance Team this week is Dave Wellbeck; an athlete who won two consecutive silver medals at the Olympics in the Noughties. He’s helping deliver the message of ‘Raising The Bar’ to schools in the latest episode of BBC Four’s mockumentary following preparations for 2012.

Dave may be an amiable chap, but personality and charisma are not in his vocabulary, a vocabulary that is made up of bad jokes and misremembered aphorisms. The brand message is lost on the youngsters he talks to and this raises alarm bells for Head of Branding, Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes).

Her mission is to get Dave off the team, but Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) appreciates the hard-working and conscientious athlete and suggests he is trained up for public speaking. This leads to some scenes very reminiscent of People Like Us (from the show’s creator John Morton) where he is coached by a failed actor who found his real calling in life was “transformational personal reprogramming”.

After announcing his trousers were his most enviable feature, Dave feels a changed man and proceeds to another school where his performance is equally awful.

Played with cringe-inducing familiarity, Darren Boyd (Whites) is adequate in the role, but the trend in the series of making everyone less than brilliant in the brain department and not completely likeable continues. Surely being the recipient of two medals would be enough to earn respect from professionals at least. Sadly it’s the Tim Henman scenario – not an outright winner so he’s branded, incorrectly, a “loser”. A very British trait.

The best laughs come from, as ever, Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Hynes (who, along with the other regulars, are slightly sidelend by Wellbeck’s story). In one of the episode’s funniest moments Ian is asked about Siobhan and her attitude, to which he states: “She’s 100% committed to being right about everything.”

The interviewer responds with another question: “How do you feel about that?” (In itself a knowing dig to the countless “reality” shows that insist on extracting thoughts and feelings from any nobody on screen.) “It’s not my job to have feelings about it,” comes the well-timed response, brilliantly delivered by Bonneville. These moments, the head-on interviews (though hardly original) are the most successful scenes in Twenty Twelve; where the actors are given a true chance to shine in their well-formed characters.

One of the most tittersome and enjoyable features of the series is David Tennant’s narration, particularly when he merely repeats what characters say – such as Ian’s closing statement of, “All things considered, this has been a pretty good outcome,” to which the former Time Lord intones, “All things considered, Ian thinks this has been a pretty good outcome.” Again, another subtly performed comment on the nature and state of current “documentaries” and reality television.

Twenty Twelve excels with its regular cast and it would be much appreciated to spend more time with them, rather than introducing new, and not as amusing, characters. They can do that in the next series.

Airs at 10pm on Monday 4th April 2011 on BBC Four.

> Order the DVD on Amazon.