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I TALK W1A (Series 2)

I've never worked at the BBC myself, but I have worked alongside the BBC for many years and visited their many buildings, from the late BBC Television Centre to New Broadcasting House.

I also know many people that work there and who can confirm that W1A, a sitcom by the BBC about working at the BBC, is accurate.


Last month I received an email from the BBC, like no other I had received before. An email from Ian Fletcher, the BBC's fictional Head of Values, played by Hugh Bonneville in W1A.


The email was to invite me to a screening of series two at the BBC (where else?) and began with the line:


"As you may know in recent months we have once again allowed cameras back in to New Broadcasting House to record some of the huge opportunities we face day to day in the Corporation’s mission to either Educate, Inform, or in extreme circumstances Entertain."

And ended with one of the show's many catchphrases...


"Warmest regards. It's all good. Ian"


There was one slight problem though, he got the date wrong. But you can't fault the reply:

"Further to the below and for the avoidance of doubt, the screening will be on Thursday 2nd April 2015. Syncopatico has not been syncing correctly of late, so nothing changes there."

Fans of the first series will of course recognise Syncopatico as a new IT system that was introduced for all staff at the BBC, set to revolutionise life, but in reality simply doesn't work.


Not one to turn down a screening, especially to one of my favourite comedies, I did of course reply to Ian and attended the screening at the BBC the other week and was treated to a special hour-long opening episode of series 2.


Usually an hour is too long for a sitcom, as the jokes start to wear thin and you find your attention fading. However this was not that case for W1A which sustained my interest throughout the hour, an hour where the jokes were never in short supply.


Ian Fletcher, Head of Values is back, and this time he has an actual office, and together with his team, has a new set of challenges to rise to, including the impending Royal visit of HRH Prince Charles. Out of all the question's surrounding the Royal visit, the most important is - Which member of the management team will get to shake the royal hand?


Also back for series two is Will the intern who, 11 months into his 8 week internship finds that his BBC pass no longer works, and when it appears that his life at the BBC may be over, he struggles to imagine a world where he doesn't fetch Ian his morning coffee. Whilst I really enjoyed the character of Will in the first three episodes of series 1, his "OK, yeah cool" replies, were a bit over played by the time we'd reached the series finale. And unfortunately, they're back, with a vengeance in the opening episode of series 2. It's a small criticism of what is otherwise, a fantastic comedy.


For me, the real star of W1A has to be Siobhan Sharpe, played by Jessica Hynes. Siobhan is Head of BBC Brand, and her team at Perfect Curve have been tasked with giving a makeover to the BBC coverage of Wimbledon following rumours of a bid from a rival broadcaster. I'm sure it goes without saying that the results are both ridiculous and inspiring in equal measure.


What I love about Siobhan is her "doesn't give a shit attitude", she knows very little and understands even less, but the way she carries herself suggest otherwise. She's loud, confident and always has the last word. A character Jessica Hynes was born to play.


And let's not forget Entertainment Format Producer David Wilkes, played brilliantly by Rufus Jones. This time around David is trying to come up with the next big Factual Entertainment series after Britain’s Tastiest Village failed to resonate with the audience at home. It's OK though, he’s got a title, Up Town, Down Town. What he hasn't got however is the show... or the cast. Two pretty important elements.


Often overlooked, is David Tennant's narration which for me, holds the show together and often most of the laughs are as a result of his descriptions, for example "It's another day, at another time" or "After a year developing a drama, the project is finally nearing another meeting" - a scenario those working in a creative environment can totally relate to. Often you'll have to watch an episode of W1A more than once to catch all of David's brilliant narration.


Now then, we have to talk about Jeremy Clarkson. When he hit the headlines a few weeks ago over attacking his producer and subsequently lost his job as Top Gear host, a lot was made of the fact that W1A were to parody Clarkson's situation. Not entirely accurate. Jeremy Clarkson does feature in the first episode of W1A but the storyline has nothing to do with his recent "fracas" with his producer.


Speaking at the screening, writer John Morton explained that the Jeremy Clarkson storyline, where a member of the public has complained about his use of the word "tosser" was written in July/August of last year, so is not a response to the recent Clarkson story.


Morton did admit however that following Clarkson's dismissal from the BBC, the show was edited slightly different, but not as a result of instructions from the BBC. John Morton together with Producer Jon Plowman, decided to take the approach of - "What would Ian do?" The result... Jeremy Clarkson's surname is brilliantly bleeped out at every mention and when poor intern Will is tasked with watching four years of Top Gear to pick out every mention of the word "tosser", Jeremy's face is pixelated.


And yet again David Tennant's voiceover puts the final nail in the coffin as Top Gear is described as a "BBC2 sitcom".


So whether you have/haven't worked at the BBC before, W1A is a fantastic sitcom that isn't afraid to poke fun at the perception of the BBC that many have, and what shocked me most from attending the screening last week was that the show's writer John Morton, has never worked at the BBC, yet has managed to absolutely nailed what working at the BBC is like.


Morton also revealed that throughout both series of W1A, much to his surprise, he has had zero interference from the BBC... even over certain Jeremy Clarkson references, which feature throughout the opening episode.

So that's all good then.


W1A returns Thursday 23rd April at 9pm on BBC Two

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