After years of stale Dom Jolly wannabes, new BBC Three reality sketch show The Revolution Will Be Televised is both radical and funny, argues Dan Poulton
According to the the BBC comics Heydon Prowse and Jolyon Rubinstein's sketches bring 'corruption, greed and hypocrisy to the fore and drags it to the court of public opinion.' The Revolution Will Be Televised (TRWBT) targets, 'various politicians, avaricious multinationals and tax-shy billionaires who have been taking the piss out of the British public for years.'
It contrasts sharply with recent BBC comedy fair. Whilst the low-key, satire-lite 'Twenty Twelve' was a, sometimes successful, attempt to satirise the dispassionate lower-bureaucrats behind the London Olympics, TRWBT goes in all guns blazing as pranksters Rubinstein and Prowse parade their layers of increasingly bizarre protest t-shirts in front of increasingly bemused security staff.
They start off with 'Dow Chemicals: poisoning the Olympics' and strip through 'athletes don't eat McDonalds' to 'Saudi Arabia: stop female apartheid' and even 'Free Nelson Mandela'. All are deemed unacceptable. Comically, 'Free Scotland' is allowed whilst 'Ban Protest' is not. 'But that's basically what you're saying!' complain the pair, only to have their tickets confiscated for 'intent on naughtiness'. 'Is that Locog policy?' comes the retort.
It's silly, and the format's not that original, but I can't remember a comedy this overtly political since the Comic Strip's savagely surreal The Hunt For Tony Blair. And that was very much an exception to the politics-free rule of 'naughties' satire.
It's especially refreshing to see anti-war activist Heydon Prowse appear on mainstream TV. He's worked with the Stop the War Coalition in the past and in 2009 his Don't Panic media group placed a brass plaque near Tony Blair's Connaught Square residence commemorating all those killed and tortured in the War on Terror, 'with his implicit approval'.
Also targeted in the show are the banks in a sketch in which Rubinstein and Prowse attempt to get charitable donations from bankers in a campaign called 'Give Us Back Our Fucking Money You C***s'. It's cathartic viewing (you can tell they mean it when they smilingly call bankers 'bastards' to their faces), and a necessary attack on greedy financiers, it's just a shame they felt the need to use a misogynistic slur to do it.
At times slightly off-colour too is the 'Double Fist TV' fetishist lifestyle spoof which promotes a fictional Vauxhall nightclub which specialises in 'DWT': 'Detention Without Trial'. In an attempt to get a crowd of party goers into the MI6 headquarters, the leather-clad host exclaims 'Why just the Muslims, why not me?' The pre-sketch stats (a notable feature of the show) tell us that Britain has sanctioned deportations and extraordinary rendition despite contravening British law.
Also noteworthy is a scene where a Tory toff hands Danny Alexander and Vince Cable a card at a Lib Dem conference, purporting to be from 'George and David'. It thanks the Lib Dems on behalf of the Conservative Party for 'all your help. We couldn't have done it without you'.
And in another, whilst posing as a TV fashionista, Rubinstein places a mannequin wearing a 'Hate tax, love Monaco' t-shirt in the window of Topshop and sports the ingenious catchphrase 'that's so off-shore' to gullible shoppers. We are then told how millionaire retailer Philip Green has dodged tax by running money through his wife's Monaco bank account. For once this is 'prankster' TV that doesn't treat its audience like morons.
In one particularly hilarious and surprising sketch, Prowse attempts to get Tony Blair a sainthood by getting the public to sign a petition calling for the war criminal's glorification. 'He stood fast in the face of no evidence and no UN resolution' says a starry-eyed Prowse, adding how brave he was to stand against 'public opinion'. 'He and Brother Bush rained democracy from the sky,' he tells two arabs who respond that it was bombs, not freedom, that fell in Iraq. 'Yes, democracy bombs,' quips Prowse.
Next he, quite bizarrely, manages to talk his way into Tony Blair's house to measure up the entrance for a stained glass window of a grinning and haloed Blair. It's tense, and at times insensitive, humour but it's always clear which side the two comics are on. They're on our side. Long may it continue.
The Revolution Will Be Televised broadcasts Wednesday's on BBC Three and episode 1 can be viewed on iPlayer.
Dan is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner. His most recent documentary was The New Scramble For Africa and his documentaries have appeared regularly on the Islam Channel. He is an organiser for Counterfire and a regular contributor to Counterfire site.
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