The Armando Iannucci Shows
UK, C4 (TalkBack Productions), Sketch, colour, 2001
Starring: Armando Iannucci
It took Armando Iannucci 18 months to write and direct these eight shows, and they aroused precious little media attention when broadcast, but it was time, and money, well spent. As writer/producer of The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You...With Alan Partridge and I'm Alan Partridge, and as writer/performer and leading light behind The Saturday Night Armistice in its various forms, Iannucci had long proven his talent for delivering quirky, cutting-edge, occasionally vicious and almost always incisive comedy. With this show, his first after moving from the BBC to C4, he burnished that reputation.
Though 'sketch' is the most approximate category into which this comedy can be placed, it was like few other shows in that genre. Rather, in a manner similar perhaps to the style of Alexei Sayle's work, the humour was drawn from observation of human behaviour and musings on the meaning of life and the way it is lived today. Each of the eight programmes followed a loose theme, and the content - taped in the studio and on location - inter-cut from item to item with such deftness that one could be left almost breathless at the sheer ingenuity. Embarrassment and inadequacy, in their various forms, were common topics, but it was rarely (if ever) possible to determine at the beginning of an item quite where it would end, so inventive and unpredictable is Iannucci's fertile comedy brain.
Although the likeable Iannucci himself was at the centre of the sketches, he was supported by a considerable company of players, each of whom aided the comedy by working with it rather than reacting against it. (One of the team was Stephen Mangan, latterly the star of Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years.) Another complementary feature of the show was the visual effects provided by the team behind the BBC's ground-breaking natural history series Walking With Dinosaurs. Producing effects that manifested Iannucci's remarkable flights of comedy fantasy must, at times, have proved just as taxing for them as animating a diplodocus.
Researched and written by Mark Lewisohn.
Number of episodes: 8
Length: 30 mins