It can be difficult to critique a comedy show, especially a sketch show, because it often just comes down to ‘Did it make you laugh?’ It’s true though that some sketch shows are terrible and some are outstanding, and I’d like to explore what makes the difference.
Anna and Katy (Channel 4, Wednesdays) isn’t one of the outstanding ones. The pilot, aired last year, was promising, but the show hasn’t lived up to that potential. All but two of the sketches were parodies. I can’t think of another non-impression sketch show with such a lack of originality.
The parodies were dead on, and it can be funny to see someone send up a TV show, but the sketches lacked jokes beyond ‘Look – we’re doing that show that’s on TV.’ One sketch was just an episode of The Apprentice without any original comic insight. We’ve all mocked The Apprentice, repeatedly, for eight years now. Professional comedians shouldn’t be treading such well-worn territory. And when 90% of a show is parodies it gets wearisome.
It’s not surprising then that the best sketch was the one which wasn’t a caricature of something else. This sketch, about a socially awkward dinner guest, would ring-true to anyone who has struggled with embarrassment after having had a joke fail miserably. It also helped that the sketch had actual jokes – ‘Who’s coming for you?’ ‘The police.’ ‘The band?’
It’s worth pointing out however that Armando Iannucci already did this sketch, and far better, in the outstanding The Armando Iannucci Shows. Iannucci’s version similarly commented on social awkwardness, but also had an original narrative about societal conspiracies, made an insightful point about how we can all feel like frauds sometimes, and the sketch itself complemented previous sketches and fed into later ones. That’s how you write a sketch show.
Worst of the lot in Anna and Katy was a German parody of Countdown. It felt like they wrote the sketch by picking random words out of a hat. Germany, sailor cap, Goth! The only joke in the sketch was repeatedly saying swear words in a way that sounds like German. It went on for far too long and then it came back for a reprise later in the show.
Very similar was a parody of morning TV shows, except hosted by people with Jamaican accents. There weren’t really any jokes beyond ‘Aren’t Jamaican accents funny and isn’t daytime TV shit. Also, vaginas.’
I’m really quite disappointed because the pilot did show promise. There is a real lack of good female-led comedy on TV, and I thought that this show could help change that. Sketch shows can often be hit or miss, but Anna and Katy had just one, maybe two good sketches, and just a handful of funny moments outside of those two. There was very little originality, no insight and no intellectual or satirical points. And sketch shows don’t really improve over time, like sitcoms, so it doesn’t bode well for future episodes.