Showing the eventful day-to-day lives of the staff at Greybridge School, David Walliams’s eagerly-anticipated sitcom, Big School began tonight, and made a comfortable start.
Boasting appearances from Catherine Tate, Frances de la Tour, Phillip Glenister, David himself and many more, it is no overstatement to say that Big School contains a stellar cast, with a host of established comedy performers popping up in Greybridge’s staff room. However, as we saw with ITV’s Vicious and Sue Perkins’s axed sitcom, Heading Out, an impressive cast list isn’t always a guarantee of audience appreciation. It tends to be a start, though.
And that’s pretty much how I would describe the opening episode of Big School: ‘a start’. It didn’t exactly live up to its hype (it’s not quite the ‘comedy masterclass’ that the Daily Mail dubbed it), but it certainly was a very strong opener, and made much more of an impression, and produced far more laughs, than a lot of contemporary sitcoms do in a whole series.
It has to be said that David Walliams and the Dawson Bros. have made a good effort with Big School: the characters are rounded, the plots have been well set-up and there were some excellent one-liners within the 30 minutes. Granted, it would be nice to find out a little more about certain characters – particularly those of Joanna Scanlan and Daniel Rigby (pictured, right), both of whom are brilliant performers – but they were still given enough time for us to warm to them in this episode. I genuinely hope they will be given a chance to shine even more as the series progresses, though.
The characters that were focused on in this episode were brilliant. Once again, Catherine Tate excels and more than proves her credentials as a comedy actress, playing new French teacher, and love interest for Messrs Church and Gunn, Miss Postern – who incidentally also seems to be the most developed character, having not only a somewhat ditzy, eager-to-please aspect to her, but a very defensive side too.
It can also come as no surprise that Walliams has created his character to be a camp heterosexual – art imitating life, eh? He does play his character brilliantly – the Timothy Lumsden-esque wet blanket that is Deputy Head of Chemistry, Mr Church. It makes a welcome change to see David play just one character in a series, as we’re used to seeing him in just one-offs, like Frankie Howerd biopic, Rather You Than Me or his very own Mr Stink, or playing a multitude of people in shows such as Little Britain and Come Fly With Me. It’s also nice to see that he’s not too cut-up about the news of ‘His Simon’s’ fatherhood to stop making us laugh…
So, despite a mixed reaction from the Twittersphere (but then what could be expected?), Big School seems to have hit the ground running. In a week when GCSE and A-Level results are big news (tell me about it!) I’d probably give Big School B for Attainment, but definitely an A for Effort.
Images courtesy of BBC and Des Willie – ©BBC.
Big School is on Fridays at 9:00pm on BBC1
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