Social networks always angrily announce that each new TV comedy is a hateful waste of airtime whose creators' cameras should be confiscated. Eventually, they were right. The justly derided Kookyville (Sunday C4) used the constructed reality format of The Only Way Is Essex - real people having real conversations, but clearly prompted, marshalled and heavily edited by the producers - and found a way to make it twenty times more grubby.
TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, Geordie Shore and the rest might have plenty of comic moments, but the audience normally like and take an interest in the participants, even if the programme-makers view them as tacky/posh/lairy scum.
Kookyville lost any pretence of following people's lives and presented the most ignorant and uncouth volunteers it could find around the country, carefully showing them in snippets at their worst, for smug laughs. It was presented as a comedy but relied on its stars not thinking they were in one, so the exploitation was obvious and painful.
This goading was depressingly cynical, but what made Kookyville a stinker for the ages was the frequency of ickily insensitive comments about minorities. Isn't it funny when people think it's OK to, for instance, tell an anecdote about a Thalidomide victim falling and not being able to right himself? As we already told Ricky Gervais: actually, no it isn't, and your decision to focus on this stuff is unfortunate at best. From the lazily awful title down, Kookyville felt like it had been designed to make the world just a little bit worse. Culturally, we were another inch towards armageddon.Jack Seale, Radio Times, 2nd December 2012
When a show causes your hands to involuntarily clamp your face in a Munch-like scream of a Sunday evening, it seems careless not mention it. And so, while there was some good, honest programme-making in the schedules last week I must purge myself of Kookyville before returning to the sphere of the critically temperate.
"Welcome to a sketch show with a difference ..." purred Fenella Fielding, deployed in the Tom Baker/Little Britain role of ironic posho narrator. "These people are not actors or comedians and there's no script ... they're just real funny people."
And if you thought that some combo of comedians, acting, scripts or forethought was almost fundamental to the sketch-show format, then you obviously lack the basic contempt for human beings of the Kookyville commissioners. This, you see, was nothing less than the first example of "constructed reality comedy", in no way the kind of idea that would be farted out by an Apprentice contestant should they ever be asked to tackle TV production.
As with your basic constructed reality show, the idea was that a bunch of purportedly non-fictional people go about their purportedly non-fictional lives while excreting stilted dialogue in obviously staged set-ups. Only here, in a presumed attempt to justify that comedy billing, the dialogue came with the added stench of sub-Frankie Boyle obnoxiousness.
Not every scene was unwatchable. The one involving two Essex girls' protracted intellectual struggle at a farm was merely a failed audition piece for The Only Way is Essex, while Bradford entrepreneur Afzal safely plumped for being re-christened Ricky Meh-vais with his unofficial tribute to David Brent. More attention-grabbing, sadly, was swearword-happy pensioner Ronnie who, likely concerned about the mellow view of her generation being peddled by BBC1's Last Tango in Halifax, mimed a diarrhoea episode in her local Chinese. Before volunteering to chew Simon Cowell's balls.
So vanilla, you say? Well, then, I give you the mother-daughter pair Suzanne and Annierose, seen gawping and gasping at a dwarf before contemplating the horror of one trying to suckle Annierose's breasts. And - my favourite - the hotelier couple who joked about trying to throw a Thalidomide victim through a window, which also allowed for that old impressionist's standard routine, wholly ignored by Rory Bremner et al, the "ickle-wickle Thalidomide victim voice".
The programme was fair in one respect; the joke, such as it was, was on everyone: the short and disabled; the "real" comics, representing all those funny, uncouth sorts outside metropolitan media circles; the godforsaken viewer; and, of course, the beleaguered Channel 4, increasingly prone to trolling audiences for attention. In that respect, Kookyville succeeded, whipping up a social media gale and instant reviews along the lines of "Put this atrocity out of its misery". But the obvious point, inside the Twittersphere and out, is that exercising your right to provoke mindlessly will eventually result only in mass unfollows.Hugh Montgomery, The Independent, 2nd December 2012
If ever there was a cut and dried case of the muck cart following the Lord Mayor's show, last Sunday night on Channel 4 was it. At 10pm we had the return of Peep Show, now into its eighth series and on this evidence still at the very top of its game.
That Channel 4 chose to follow it up with Kookyville, an unscripted and woefully unfunny sketch show featuring members of the public was the most bizarre piece of scheduling I've seen since Channel 5 ran a Fred West documentary immediately after a show called Half Built House. And almost as offensive.Ian Hyland, Daily Mail, 1st December 2012
Turns out Channel 4, like most TV stations and production houses, think that it's best to show ordinary, regular people at their very worst so that the middles classes and, let's face it, Channel 4 executives can point and laugh at all the stupid poor people again.Michael Legge, 30th November 2012
Most of it falls completely flat, which only goes to show why you need comedy writers and performers to make comedy. Much more distressing than that, however, is the repeated use of ableist humour.Alastair Craig, 26th November 2012
It was an absolute train wreck - the most unwatchably abhorrent, painfully unfunny half-hour of comedy Channel 4 have surely ever broadcast.Steve Bennett, Chortle, 26th November 2012
With a name almost certainly concocted by someone who was kooky before it was cool, Kookyville markets itself as 'a sketch show with a difference'. After 25 almost entirely joke-free minutes, it's hard to disagree. Of course, the salient difference to which they allude is that there are no actors; Kookyville is a structured-reality sketch show. Yes, apparently that is now a thing. There's Ronnie the granny who says 'fuck' and 'cunt' a lot (hey, it's funny because she's old), the depressingly idiotic Babs, Cabs and Shabs, the virtually characterless Katherine and Malcolm, Afzal the car dealer and a host of other one-note characters. The attempt to combine the contrived, frequently awkward setting with 'real life' characters seems ill-advised and misguided at best, although Kookyville will probably still appeal to a certain audience. Let's just hope it doesn't catch on.Dylan Lucas, Time Out, 25th November 2012