TV Review: W1A (Series 1)

Series 1 of W1A hits the spot when its humour tends towards the gently absurd. And at any moment when Monica Dolan, Jason Watkins or Sarah Parish are onscreen.

“I’m sorry…I don’t want to be rude or anything but Ian is not Justin Bieber”

Following on from the success of Twenty Twelve, John Morton’s W1A scooped up its key personnel and shifted them from the bloated organisational chaos of the Olympics Deliverance Team over to the no-less-unwieldly bureaucracy of the BBC. So Ian Fletcher Hugh Bonneville) takes the scarcely defined job as Head of Values there, is saddled once again with Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes) as Brand Consultant and the whole thing is deliciously narrated by a super-dry David Tennant.

And to a large extent, the transplant is successful. The key to these shows is the quality of an evenly-balanced ensemble and W1A knocks it out of the park from top to bottom. Monica Dolan’s bruisingly plain-spoken comms officer, Nina Sosanya’s too-good-for-this-world TV producer, Rufus Jones’ hilariously too-rubbish-for-this-world counterpart and best of all, Jason Watkins’ director of strategic governance and Sarah Parish’s head of output both delivering masterclasses in avoiding making any decisions at all.

Morton’s writing takes a no-holds-barred approach to poking fun at the BBC and whilst initially quite daring, it doesn’t always make for the best comedy, sometimes coming off as fairly self-indulgent (the less said about the Alan Yentob/Salman Rushdie sight gag the better). And storylines that run around the likes of Clare Balding and Carol Vorderman can ultimately only go so far. The series is funnier when it is freer, noodling around in the absurdities of anti-Cornish bias, rogue Twitter accounts and news presenters no longer sitting behind desks.

W1A also succeeds in establishing a brilliant world of wider supporting characters too – the union of Hugh Skinner and Jonathan Bailey as antagonists around Ophelia Lovibond’s Izzy is inspired, so too the near-wordless work of digital strategists Jerry Guildencrantz and Ben Rosenstern, superbly underplayed by Ivan Gonzalez and Max Olesker. This is a gentler, chuckling humour at work here, some might want more belly laughs from their comedy but for me, W1A hits the spot.

Watch W1A on BBC iPlayer here

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