TV: Hospital People, BBC1

Fans of live comedy may have seen Tom Binns doing rubbish DJ Ivan Brackenbury and dodgy psychic Ian D Montfort on the circuit and in Edinburgh in recent years. Now finally, after a BBC one-off last year Binns gets his own series, a mockumentary set in the fictional Brimlington Hospital, in which he plays Brackenbury, Montfort and many more eccentric creations. 

I probably wrote this when the pilot went out last year, but the closest comparison is Peter Kay and his early C4 showcase The Services. While the supporting cast here is pretty good - Russell Brand and Sian Gibson are coming up and in the first episode Alex Macqueen stars as a snooty TV drama doctor who thinks he is a real surgeon – the programme stands or falls on Binns. And luckily the diagnosis is pretty positive.

The opener is set around the annual hospital awards, which every staffer wants to win. So one by one we get introduced to the characters played by Binns as they lobby and jockey for position. Hapless, deluded Brackenbury we know from the start doesn’t stand a chance, but maybe hospital priest Father Kenny will triumph - he certainly sticks enough votes for himself in the ballot box when nobody is looking.

And then there is manager Susan Mitchell, who is partial to an innuendo. A hospital has people at the top and bottom, she explains: “A good manager always listens to their bottom”. No chance for a shamelessly cheesy joke is missed. Scouser Father Kenny’s gags are the corniest, while Brackenbury’s radio motto is the Savile-esque “Reaching out and touching people.” 

Somehow though Binns manages to have his cheese cake and eat it. The tidal wave of gags both good and eggy means that there is never a dull moment when one might sit back and realise how corny this is. This is old school mainstream comedy, but cleverer than it initially seems. Old school comedy with a knowing wink. Or maybe it's conjunctivitis.

Hospital People, Fridays from April 21 at 9.30pm on BBC1. 


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