Crackanory is like a single decent sketch idea drawn out over a slightly prosaic 30 minutes. It’s a nice idea – an adult Jackanory – and this first episode was okay, but it’s hardly compulsive viewing.
The first story in the episode was narrated by Jack Dee and told of a man who upset the world by insulting a pop star on Twitter. It was a bit like a written polemic, a kind of visual Charlie Brooker column. There were hints of satire and of dystopian sci-fi, with coarse humour peppered throughout. It was so close to Brooker’s work in fact that I think the writer must have been consciously influenced by him while writing the piece.
The second story was better mainly thanks to the fantastic narration of Sally Philips who was obviously enjoining herself a great deal. The story – a more traditional children’s narrative – concerned a toymaker who arranged for a clockwork version of himself to be left with his family after his death.
Philips was outstanding and the best thing about the episode. She has mastery of tone and comic delivery, using a sinisterly patronising narration that changed up with each punchline. Her enunciation of every letter of certain words – ‘phil-an-thro-pist’ – and delivery of certain others in her creepily posh upper-class accent was delicious. And her movements were controlled and purposeful, adding to the story’s off-putting edge, with her stare into the camera making it hard to break eye-contact, like she was actually in the room.
The music in the episode added to this sinister air, sounding like a Danny Elfman soundtrack to one of Tim Burton’s ethereal films. I think the show successfully captured the creepy mix of innocence and danger found in the best children’s stories.
The problem is that despite all this, for the bulk of the 30 minutes, it was kind of boring. It could have done with a lot more – and better – jokes. The second story had no point to it really – despite an attempt to shoehorn-in one at the end – and these little short stories are supposed to be parables, with interesting messages.
There are six episodes in the series, and the quality of each episode will probably in large part depend on who is narrating each one. The Radio Times says the ‘thinness of the series’ premise is exposed’ in episode two and I think that probably sums up the show’s problem; there just isn’t enough to the idea to sustain three hours worth of television, not unless they have the Brothers Grimm on the writing staff. Still, Kevin Eldon is a narrator next week, so that might be worth tuning in for. Maybe check the listings ahead of time to see who is narrating each episode, and watch depending on who that is.
- ‘The information superhighway is like a hate-filled rollercoaster that doesn’t have any seat belts.’ – I doubt this review will do anything to improve the writer’s opinion of the internet.
- ‘It shrieked in capital letters as mum texts tend to.’
- You can find a list and photo of all the series’ narrators here.