Preview: W1A, BBC2


Shitting on its own doorstep. A dog returning to its vomit. Liking the smell of its own farts. I'm not sure what the BBC's stance on W1A is, but I guess it is mainly about showing that they have the ability to laugh at themselves. The first episode in the eagerly anticipated semi-sequel to Twenty Twelve certainly sticks the boot into the Beeb but it is a designer boot, not a steel toe-capped one

For Hugh Bonnevile's Ian Fletcher it is well-spoken galumphing business as usual as he takes over as new Head of Values. Or is it Head of News Values? He soon finds himself up against Simon Harwood (Jason Watkins) who, as David Tennant's gloriously nonsensical narration explains, is Director of Strategic Governance and "one of the Corporation's most strategic directors". Fletcher's face soon drops when he finds he has been paired again with Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes), who is described as Ginger to his Fred Astaire, while they happen to be standing in front of pictures of Eric Morecambe and Ernie. Wise move.

There is lots to love about W1A. Even the bits that aren't particularly original. Dim Internbot Will ("Cool…say again…") is pretty much a trustafarian twat from central casting, while Sarah Parish's ball breaking Head of Output Anna Rampton is obvious but fun. There are also the now-obligatory Extras-style cameos. Carol Vorderman is called in for a meeting when Clare Balding turns out to be double-booked and there is a rather funny if self-congratulatory snippet featuring Salman Rushdie and Alan Yentob arm-wrestling.

But if there is an overriding feeling that this series has pretty much written itself that underestimates the work that has gone into John Morton's script. No word is wasted. When we meet silent twosome Ben and Jerry, played by comic duo Max and Ivan, we are simply told by Harwood, "I know, real names, what are the chances?" Programme titles discussed in a conference – Britain's Tastiest Village, How Big Is Your Dog? – are straight out of Partridge's Monkey Tennis. And on that subject it is good to see AP's man of many accents Simon Greenall as militant Cornwall fly-in-the-ointment Nigel Trescott, who maybe has a flicker of Farage about him. 

Interesting to see this going into the slot vacated by Inside no 9. W1A is a different kind of horror show. But like Inside No 9, it is also a very funny one. It might not make your spine tingle like Shearsmith and Pemberton did, but if you work for any big, faceless corporation that is partial to a spot of jargon-spouting and rebranding it might make your ears burn. 

W1A is on BBC2 on Wednesdays.

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