Category Archives: ‘Hidden Camera’

‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.4

After four nights of causing controversy and offence but undoubtedly entertaining, I’m Spazticus finished its run tonight and it was much like it has been for the past three: peppered with humour, but mainly heaped with damp squibs.

‘VICTIM DISCOMFORT’

The ‘victim discomfort’ was particularly funny tonight, both in the ‘Police Parade’ and the ‘Blind Date’ sketches. In the former, a woman had to bend down in a police parade in order to ‘blend in’ with the other participants – three dwarves. To top it all, she was all but forced to deliver the line, “Why do you put your pornography so high on the shelf?” That was actually really funny. Elsewhere, a blind man went to a restaurant and told his waiter – Sean – that he was expecting a blind date to turn up. If the date was attractive, Tim (the blind man) told Sean, he should recommend the Chef’s Special, otherwise he must recommend the pork. Put it this way: there’s no way Sean could have recommended the Chef’s Special.

DÉJÀ VU!

That’s all that I found funny about I’m Spazticus tonight, unfortunately. I think the problem with this series has been that a lot of the sketches became repetitive and predictable – ‘Dwarf Punch Sandwich’ and ‘Talking Guide Dog’ spring to mind. There really was a sense that once you’d seen them once, you’d seen them a hundred times. There was simply next-to-no variation between one instalment and then the other, it’s a case it déjà vu a lot of the time.

Whether I’m Spazticus will get a second outing on Channel 4, I have no idea. Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered either way. If it returned, I’d watch it but if it didn’t, I wouldn’t mourn it. Still, it’s got people talking!

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer
Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

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‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.3

Love it or loathe it, I’m Spazticus has people talking. Those who love it, I’m finding, do so simply because they find it funny – it has nothing to do with the disability aspect for them, I think. However, those who loathe it are tending to find it offensive and unfunny. I don’t love it, I wouldn’t even say I particularly like it, but I no longer loathe it either.

MAX & TANYA

There were two sketches in particular last night which I found very funny. Firstly, there was the opening one which saw Max, the dwarf, back in his role as a guard standing outside a public toilet, preventing people from going in. It wasn’t the sketch itself which I liked, there was just something funny about him standing there and declaring to a woman he was refusing access, “It’s a bit of a humdinger.” No? Is it just me that found that funny? Oh well.

My favourite sketch of the episode and indeed the series as a whole, without a shadow of a doubt, was a trailer for a Channel 4 documentary following a dwarf called Tanya Lee Jones who was looking for love. We saw clips of her telling bemused men about her pole dancing and, best of all, “I don’t shave down there ‘cos that makes me look legal.” However, the punchline and the one thing from I’m Spazticus which has genuinely made me laugh out loud was the title, revealed at the end of the trailer: Midget Jones’s Diary. Just inspired.

FUNNY?

I suppose once we’ve got over whether I’m Spazticus is offensive or not (I’ve decided that it’s not), the next question is, is it funny? Well…no. Apart from a couple of sketches in each episode, I haven’t found much to laugh at in this show. True, there are some skits which don’t have strong premises, and there are others which do…but aren’t executed well, therefore leaving their potential unfortunately unfulfilled.

WRONG DIRECTION

I can’t help thinking that I’m Spazticus might work better as a sketch show rather than a ‘hidden-camera’ one. After all, it is the sketches which I think mainly work best: the ‘Fenton!’ one which I mentioned in my last review and the spoof of the Class sketch from The Frost Report were great and don’t use hidden-cameras.

If I’m Spazticus continues after tonight’s final episode – which I doubt it will – it should really concentrate more on scripted sketches than improvised hidden-camera pranks.

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.2

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one again! Channel 4’s new hidden-camera prank show I’m Spazticus continued tonight and it still seems to be splitting opinion, as opposed to sides.

THE TWEETS

I tend not to go on Twitter to see what people are saying about a show I’m going to review, out of fear I’ll be influenced by others’ views, rather than just expressing my own. However, after I’d uploaded my review of I’m Spazticus last night, I did go on the site to see what the reaction was. Immediately I saw many tweets from writer Jonathan Harvey saying he didn’t like the show and didn’t really find it funny. Now, Jonathan wrote the quite risqué and rude Gimme Gimme Gimme – which confirmed my point that I didn’t have to be a prude not to like I’m Spazticus.

I then received a tweet in agreement with my review so I knew I had struck a chord with some people. However, I woke up this morning to find that I had also received a tweet from Simon Stevens, the man with cerebal palsy who starred in the sketch I mainly objected to in my review last night – the one focusing on an identity parade. The main reason for Simon’s tweet was to clarify that I’m Spazticus isn’t here to change perceptions but to simply create comedy with disabled people being prominent. The reason I said that the show is out to change perceptions is because I read an article in which blind actor and I’m Spazticus star Tim Gebbels basically said he had plans to stop people being “scared” of disability. That is where my misconception stemmed from and I’m sorry that I got it wrong. I told Simon that the first episode simply didn’t appeal to me and perhaps I’d become more of a fan when I watched tonight’s instalment. And I’m pleased to say: I am warming to it.

ONLY A SLIGHT DISCOMFORT

I certainly didn’t feel the discomfort that I did when watching the first episode. I mean, I cringed a little at the sketch involving Tim Gebbels attempting to hand over the Olympic torch to a woman who’d had her hands amputated but that was the intended reaction, wasn’t it? I’m sure I’m Spazticus is meant to make the viewer cringe a smidgen in places. It definitely became more obvious to me by watching tonight’s show – and by receiving Steven’s clarification earlier – that the comedy stems from the able-bodied ‘victims’ of the pranks’ reactions, not the performers themselves. I liked Max – the dwarf – pretending to be a guard, it was just as funny on this episode as it was on the first. Also, Tim – the blind performer – having his letter read out by a bemused man at his door, revealing he had a series of STDs was very good and I felt so sorry for the woman who thought actor Peter Mitchell being stuck in his wheelchair in a tree after an alleged parachuting accident was genuine and was at pains to get help. I mean, seriously: who would believe that that was a real incident if they saw it in the street? Apart from that woman, of course.

THE WEAKNESSES

There are still some weaknesses to I’m Spazticus, however, I feel. The sketches in it make me raise a smile but seldom laugh. I think if it hadn’t been for the creators tapping into the niche of disability in comedy, it wouldn’t stand out in the prank or hidden-camera show genre.

Some sketches are dragged out, too. Take the ‘Gnome-o-gram’ skit, for example. That was a brilliant visual joke when it started but became quite monotonous when we kept revisiting it to find that not a lot had changed. Ditto for the ‘Fenton’ sketch which ended both last night’s and tonight’s show by lampooning the infamous ‘FENTON!’ YouTube clip. In these, we see one of the I’m Spazticus performers racing after their dog (or in Tim Gebbel’s case his ‘Guide Dwarf’…don’t ask). Last night, we only had one but tonight we had two versions of this. When I first saw it in the opening episode, I found it funny. When I watched it in tonight’s show, though, I thought it was a little less funny as it didn’t differ a lot from the previous one. The one saving grace with it ending tonight’s show was that it had a twist, with Tim chasing after his aforementioned ‘Guide Dwarf’…and then dropping the C-word at the end! I didn’t expect that!

So, I enjoyed tonight’s show a little more but I still think it’s got a little way to go before it can fully establish itself. I hope it can – it has potential.

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.1

As part of their ‘Funny Fortnight’, Channel 4 have commissioned a four-part series of I’m Spazticus, which originally piloted in 2005 as part of Comedy Lab. Now, I didn’t see the pilot so had nothing to compare this opening episode to. I did, however, have reservations.

POLITICALLY CORRECT?

For one, how the hell did the title make it past the censors? Very few comedians nowadays would dare utter the word “spaz”, so derogatory a term is it. I’d just like to clarify that I’m not complaining about the lack of usage of this word – I think it’s offensive, too. Therefore I was dubious about the show itself as this word – as is palpable – appears in the title.

It’s quite difficult to write this review as I feel as if I’m treading on eggshells: can I say this? Can I say that? Is that the politically correct term? I don’t think the creators and stars of I’m Spazticus had these fears, however, as this show is quite in-your-face and they don’t let you forget what their aim is – to change people’s attitudes towards disability and make it less of a taboo subject. Did they succeed? My opinion is no.

BLIND MAN’S BLUFF

I mean, there were some funny sketches in this episode, such as the one in which a blind man received a delivery of a dog which he thought was his beloved Blackie, who had apparently been stuffed after its death, only for him to be told what had actually been brought to him was a stuffed golden Labrador. This man also reappeared later in what was my highlight of I’m Spazticus – a skit in which he walked into a roller-blind shop called ‘We Love Blinds’, claiming that he thought it was a dating agency for blind people. When he walked into the shop, you could see the joke coming a mile off but it still worked really well.

UNCOMFORTABLE VIEWING…BUT NOT IN A GOOD WAY

Anyway, that’s enough of what I found good about I’m Spazticus: it’s now onto the bad. I’m afraid I found a lot of the sketches very repetitive and dragged-out: I ‘got it’ within the first ten seconds of a sketch beginning – it didn’t need to be dragged-out for a further two minutes or more. God only knows how this is going to be spread out over four consecutive nights!

And then, there are the sketches themselves. There were two in particular which I took umbrage with: one involving a ‘Street Dance’ in which a dwarf, an amputee and a man with cerebal palsy all busked in the street in front of stunned onlookers and another which saw an able-bodied man partake in an identity parade with three other men who all had cerebal palsy. I have to say that I found both of these very uncomfortable to watch. I don’t want to come across as a prude – I’m seldom prudish – but there was just something about these two sketches in particular which didn’t sit well with me. As a viewer, feeling discomfort can be a good thing: it can sometimes get you involved with the programme, make you laugh and cringe in equal measure. Take The Office for example: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant tackled subjects like ethnicity and disability in that show and I think it’s the only comedy which can actually have you watching through your fingers yet be hilarious at the same time. I’m Spazticus, however, didn’t do that – it just made me feel this discomfort without any of the positive connotations. Clearly these two skits in particular were created in order to challenge the viewer’s conscience, to make them really consider whether they were laughing at or with the performers. Unfortunately, this failed because, if you’re like me, you weren’t even laughing in the first place.

‘I DON’T THINK THIS WILL HELP’

Channel 4 has a certain reputation for pushing boundaries and challenging its viewers but I think there are aspects of I’m Spazticus which take this too far. I’m not denying that the intentions of the programme are good – I can see why they want to change the public’s perceptions towards disability and why they’ve chosen this way to go about it but, if I’m being honest, I don’t think the end product will help their cause a great deal.

There’s more I’m Spazticus tomorrow night at 10:35pm on Channel 4. Until then, though, you can follow me on Twitter (@UKTVReviewer) or stay up-to-date with my reviews and those of others, as well as TV news and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com.