Lisa Jackson

  • Actor

Press clippings

The disturbing surprise in Campus is that some talented comic acting refuses to be funny. Squatting at the centre of the action is Jonty de Wolfe (Andy Nyman), the vice-chancellor of Kirke University (in-joke: Howard Kirk is Malcolm Bradbury's anti-hero in his 1975 campus novel The History Man, a TV series 30 years ago). A monstrous man, he harasses his scholars - in particular the compulsively randy English professor Matthew Beer (Joseph Millson) - into publishing bestselling books, mimics students' foreign accents and, in this past week's episode, seeks a 25 per cent staff reduction by shouting at passing academics through a megaphone: "F**k off out of it, thank you very much, have a nice day." He locks a visiting bank manager in a cupboard to avoid his bad news, composedly takes tea beside a scholar who has just died, and threatens the university's gullible financial officer with shrinkage.

He and the other characters pursue their lives' strategies - power, sex, money, fame - as independent atoms, hurtling through a universe of others with which they collide. In their relationships, they either prey on others or are preyed on. Anyone seeking to pursue serious work or study is marginal to the main action. The one real success, a book on the concept of zero by a shy mathematics lecturer Imogen Moffat (Lisa Jackson), changes her from a cipher to the status of a tethered goat on which all other animals seek to feed. Where The History Man was, in part, a satire on sociology (Kirk's discipline) and the phoney uses to which it can be put, Campus ignores the intellectual content of a university in favour of concentrating on de Wolfe's awfulness. The more the comic business frantically multiplies, the more inert the matter is: its core, like that of the fictional university, seems absent. There is no "there" there.

J Lloyd, The Financial Times, 16th April 2011

I'm going to say something which is going to make me unpopular with most critics - I actually like this show.

Having read other reviews of Campus, the vast majority, especially those in the tabloids, derided this new sitcom by the team behind Green Wing. Most said it was bad because it's too similar to Green Wingp. Are these people mad? That's like saying, "This country has a rubbish football team. It's too much like Brazil's."

Campus, like Green Wing, is great, especially the egotistical, power-crazed and bigoted vice chancellor of Kirke University, Jonty de Wolfe, played by Andy Nyman (most famous for being Derren Brown's right-hand man).

Nyman's character also got panned by the critics, arguing his remarks went too far, comparing him unfavourably to David Brent (the fact they have the same beard doesn't help, I guess). There are key differences here, though.

Brent is a middle-manager, is meant to be a realistic character, and in the end his incompetence results in him getting the boot. Wolfe is the master of a surreal and chaotic world, answering to nobody, and as such is able to get away with what he does because there is no-one able to stop him - at least not yet, but there is another character who is due to appear later in the series who might be able to stop Wolfe.

Among the other Green Wing associations made were comparing their characters to Campus'. The misogynistic English Literature professor Matt Beer (Joseph Millson) was compared to Guy Secretan - and to be fair there are quite a lot of similarities - and his relationship with Maths lecturer Imogen Moffat (Lisa Jackson) is similar to that between Guy and Caroline Todd.

I also read one critic comparing mechanical engineering lecturer Lydia Tennant (Dolly Wells) to Sue White, which I think is totally wrong. With all of her idiosyncrasies, odd mannerisms and pomposity I'd argue if anything that she's more like Alan Statham. It is in fact Wolfe who is most like Sue White, but only with much more power.

I have to admit, though, there are some problems with the show. Firstly, the camerawork is quite unprofessional, with some dodgy cuts (watch the scene when Wolfe is on a megaphone talking to a female student about a degree in arseology - his left hand is suddenly on a rail, then on the megaphone and back on the rail again) in this episode in particular.

And in the end I just know Channel 4 will axe the show. The first episode was watched by only 718,000 people, as previously mentioned several times it's been written off by the critics, and nothing I've written will change any of the minds of the bigwigs who run the network.

But in truth, the main reason that Campus is on Channel 4 in the first place is because they decided to axe Green Wing; so if you don't like Campus, don't blame the writers or the other people behind the show, blame Channel 4 for axing the original great work in the first place.

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 11th April 2011

The first of 2009's batch of Comedy Showcase pilots to get the green-light for a full series, this has been extended to an hour with a lot of the old gags kept in and new ones added.

Produced and directed by Victoria Pile, Campus is basically Green Wing set in a university - minus almost all of that series' charm.

While Green Wing started with likeable characters from which the zaniness developed naturally, here the equation seems to have been turned on its head with zany as the start and end point.

Leading the cast is Andy Nyman as Vice-Chancellor Jonty - a racist, sexist, magical ­combination of David Brent, Sue Sylvester and Dr Evil with hair that resembles an exotic pastry.

Lisa Jackson plays maths geek Imogen Moffat and Joseph Millson is self-appointed English lecturer/sex-god Matt Beer.

It is the work of eight writers and a condition of employment seems to have been that they each had to use the word "vagina" at least once. It's funny, but Needs To Not Try So Hard.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 5th April 2011

This is the series where Channel 4 kicks some fledgling sitcoms out of the nest to see which ones will fly. The Kevin Bishop Show, Plus One and Free Agents all came out of 2007's try-outs and I'd put money on Campus getting the green light - especially as it's set in Kirke University (motto: "With Wings").

It feels like Green Wing Goes To College, because it was made by that show's creator Victoria Pile and her team. Like Green Wing it has that same air of institutionalised in-breeding about it and is backed by another distinctively woozy soundtrack by Trellis.

There are some very funny moments but the staff at Kirke are perhaps a little too eccentric for their own good. It's as if the challenge was how weird can we make these people and still have them breathe oxygen?

Vice-chancellor Jonty (Andy Nyman) comes on like a more megalomaniac David Brent, while womanising English lecturer Matt Beer (think about it) and speccy maths star Imogen Moffat (Joseph Millson and Lisa Jackson) have big shoes to fill if they're to be Campus's answer to Guy and Caroline.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 6th November 2009

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