|Time Trumpet (2006) United Kingdom|
Anyway, the good news is that the Beeb has at last had the presence of mind to release this on DVD. Quite why it's taken them almost three years is anyone's guess but, since it's here and this is supposed to be a review, I'll stop moaning and tell you about it.
The concept is simple but every clever. The show is presented as a historical documentary but one made in 2031, looking back on the early years of the 21st century. The focus is mostly on the years 2006-2012 so we're looking back at the present and a few years into the immediate future. This is a neat idea and one that lends itself well to political, social and cultural satire as the writers are able to take present day events and trends and, projecting them into the future, skewer them through exaggeration for comic effect.
If that sounds a bit abstract, I'll provide some examples. In one episode, we learn that public apathy and disrespect towards the monarchy got so bad that no-one attended the 2012 Coronation of King Charles. In another we learn that the public became so fond of voyeuristic and cruel TV that the top-rated show of 2010 was called "Rape an Ape" (later to become "Celebrity Rape an Ape", of course). We learn that our culture of ostentatious caring and celebrity obsession became so irrational that Bob Geldof organised a rock concert with the aim of eradicating death. And so on. All very funny.
In between clips showing these events, there are numerous interviews with people from 2031, be they cultural commentators or present day celebrities now 30 years older. The cultural commentators - played by Holness, Ayoade and Mark Watson, among others - are inarticulate, provide very little insight and often have no recollection of what they're supposed to be commenting on. In this sense, "Time Trumpet" also works well as a sly dig at clip-based nostalgia shows and the 2nd rate comedians and Z-list celebrities who usually appear on them. The celebrity interviews are often hilarious too. David Beckham in his 60s was my favourite.
I have to say the best material here is stellar. It's clever, daring, gloriously silly and laugh-out-loud funny. It's just a shame that there are, on average, about 5-6 jokes per episode that just don't work, be it because they are unnecessarily dragged out, repeated too often or just not that funny. The quality does vary and the lack of consistency and focus is what prevents it being in the same league as the great satirical shows of recent years - shows like "Brass Eye", "The Thick of It" and "Monkey Dust."
Nevertheless, this is very, very good. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys their satire with a distinctly British flavour and equal dollops of intelligence, silliness and imagination. Fans of Iannucci's previous work and that of Chris Morris will particularly enjoy it.