W1A. Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville). Copyright: BBC


  • TV sitcom
  • BBC Two
  • 2014 - 2020
  • 14 episodes (3 series)

Spin-off from Twenty Twelve in which Ian Fletcher and Siobhan Sharpe now find themselves working for the BBC. Stars Hugh Bonneville, Jessica Hynes, Jason Watkins, Monica Dolan, Hugh Skinner and more.

Press clippings Page 7

There exists a comedians' in-joke, only very slightly up its own jacksie, in which one asks: "What's the secret of good com..." only to have the second interrupt with the shout: "Timing!" But that is, indeed, the very singular secret of comedy, timing, and W1A, in its second outing, gets it just-so, in the same way that there is only one just-so way in which to shoot cuffs, tap dance slowly, play Chopin or excise a pineocytoma.

Writer and director John Morton has, admittedly, the best of sublime comedy talent to work with. Hugh Bonneville, Nina Sosanya, Jessica Hynes, Jason Watkins. But he has, in this crammed hour, not only to re-thumbnail the personalities with a wizard's thumb but get the timing beyond reproach. To this end, the entire cast are apparently "invited" to spend up to seven hours rehearsing 10 seconds of rapid-fire dialogue. I'm sure the above four could improvise delightfully - been lucky enough to meet two of them, one over drinks after a funeral, another over an extremely fun lunch, and what different people they are, thus what fine actors - but the Morton gene calls for just-so, and the BBC, bravely risking much to rip the ferret out of itself in this wince-out-loud comedy, acceded, in what may well become its finest confection since Fawlty Towers.

Thus, for instance, the five just-so bollards. In more minor hands, the sequence in which the black Range Rover of HRH, an (unseen) Charles, is stymied at the entrance to New Broadcasting House, inside which the welcoming committee have become hogtied by their own insane security protocols, could have been simple farce. The anti-terrorist bollards would just have jumped up and down or spiked Charlie's RR in the sump. Instead, Dave (Andrew Brooke), head of Beeb security, aided only by a ridiculous smartphone and the meaningless catchphrase "we are status-active", manages with a stoic glower to "relent" bollards 2 and 4. And then, in quiet desperation, Nos 1, 3 and 5. There is a full nine-second pause. All bollards down. Then bollard 3 reappears, like a giant erection (as if there's any other kind).

There is glorious timing here, yes, but there's also humanity. Was I alone in quietly cheering whip-smart Lucy (Sosanya) in being the first to make it to the royal meet-and-greet, having left the three witches trapped in their own personalities and also a non-revolving revolving door? Or in feeling, admittedly slightly, a twitch sorry for Will, the good-looking, charming intern with the kind of shoe-size IQ even a mother would struggle to love? If you didn't see it, I just feel for you. Do so. David Tennant's perky voiceovers, dry as sandblasted Ryvita, are worth the licence fee alone.

Euan Ferguson, The Observer, 26th April 2015

While not as laugh-a-minute as the first series of W1A, the new offering again crackled with good lines, from the pen (and now direction) of John Morton, who also tackled the monster that was the London Olympics in 2012, in a comedy of the same name. He likes a challenge.

Has he thought about the EU, and Brussels? That may be a farce too far. According to Morton's script his royal highness "needs a three-day lockdown on his loo".

As one person said in the meeting, "that's a little too much information".

The strength of this series is to mix what we assume happens within the BBC, with what actually does go on in the daft world of TV. "The Frankie Howerd room"? In the end, we don't have a clue as to where the truth lies.

If a quarter of what happens within those meetings is close to reality, it explains what we sometimes see on the screen.

It's good comedy, yes, but it does make you wonder, which we hope is the whole idea. Or is it simply a weekly video for BBC staffers to watch and reflect upon? For example, there was talk in the show of a new role as "Director of Better".

We laugh, but it might not be too far from reality either. What it does show is an organisation easily parodied for being obsessed with image. The BBC is not alone in that, but we do hope that coming up with decent programme ideas then making them is the real focus.

There was a funny storyline about Jeremy Clarkson. His surname was bleeped out, as someone was "tasked" with counting up the number of times he had said the word "tosser" in the past four years on Top Gear. Alas, the hapless "oh, cool, yeah" intern Will was given the job. If only he'd been given the task of sorting out the real-life Clarkson case.

The hour-long format did the show no favours. For example, there was a little too much from Perfect Curve, who are now genuinely the "world's most annoying PR agency". That aside, solid performances from the likes of Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Hynes have ironically made this one of the best comedy series on the BBC in recent years. One thing is sure, though, viewers will quietly desert the show before John Morton runs out of material.

David Stephenson, The Daily Express, 26th April 2015

W1A's Clarkson episode was clever and funny

If the BBC is always in damage limitation mode then W1A is something like a controlled burn to halt a forest fire.

Benji Wilson, The Telegraph, 25th April 2015

W1A, TV review

Too cosy to be cutting but, moving forward, it's totes worth sticking with.

Ellen E. Jones, The Independent, 24th April 2015

W1A review: 'nibbling, not biting, satire'

The problem with W1A is that reality is funnier than spoof - just look at Jeremy Clarkson. And the annoying language really is annoying.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 24th April 2015

'W1A' season 2 episode 1 review

W1A may expose the follies and bureaucracies of the BBC, but it also has real humanity and heart. Just like the BBC itself in fact.

Malcolm Stewart, Cult Box, 24th April 2015

W1A: Jessica Hynes shines

In my opinion, the mark of a good satirical comedy is how close to reality you feel that the situations are. So, when I watched the first series of W1A, I felt at some points as if I were watching a documentary...

Matt D., Unreality TV, 24th April 2015

W1A, Series 2, BBC Two

It's still sharp, but should the BBC be flagellating itself a second time?

Jasper Rees, The Arts Desk, 24th April 2015

The BBC has a problem. It's in danger of losing the Wimbledon rights to a rival broadcaster. On top of that it's considered that the tournament is too staid, white and elitist.

Enter PR extraordinaire Siobhan Sharpe, who is tasked with the job of making Wimbledon cool and 'ethnically, not so much white'.

It was just one of the corporation's dilemmas witnessed in W1A (BBC Two), which returned for a new series with an hour-long special. It's the mock-umentary that mercilessly lampoons the Beeb in all its politically correct, management-speak glory.

Just like most of the employees Siobhan (played by the brilliant Jessica Hynes) communicates in meaningless, corporate parlance. 'Yah. Totally. Epic,' is her favourite soundbite. Her solution to the Wimbledon issue was to 'mash it up and pimp it' by calling it Win-bledon, getting people like Alan Sugar and David Attenborough to act as umpires while members of the crowd chant and wave giant foam fingers.

Meanwhile hapless Entertainment Format Executive David Wilkes is desperate to come up with a new family-viewing show following the spectacular failure of Britain's Top Village.

His suggestion is Heavy Petting, a reality show were celebrities swap pets. Alternatively there's Britain's Top Family, where a family of toffs and a family of chavs fight it out to decide who is better.

'That's what ITV is for,' snapped Anna Rampton, the steely, charmless Head of Output. She had a point. I bet I wasn't the only person imagining ITV executives watching last night, pen and paper in hand, furiously scribbling notes.

Jeremy Clarkson's endless gaffes must be manna from heaven for writer and director John Morton. Last night Head of Values Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) was investigating the number of times Clarkson (whose name was bleeped out) said the word 't*****' following viewer's complaints.

Posh, clueless intern Will had to sit through four years' worth of Top Gear counting the number of times the word was uttered -- and, naturally, he messed that up as well.

Amid all that, the BBC was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles to congratulate them on becoming the first 'zero energy broadcaster'.

The BBC's bungling Head of Security, who bragged about his 'foolproof zonal lock-down system', was as competent as Mr Bean, while producer Lucy Freeman was chosen to greet HRH for no other reason than the fact she was non-white.

Last night's opener was witty, wordy and frantic with David Tennant's voiceover hitting the mark perfectly. At times it felt like too much was being crammed in, leaving the viewer almost breathless by the end.

You have to credit the BBC for allowing its operation to be ripped apart so savagely. Everybody had a daft title, nobody knew what they were doing and all were too afraid to do their job for fear of upsetting somebody else.

If the bumbling buffoons of W1A are even halfway accurate then it's little wonder all the political parties are promising to either reduce or freeze the licence fee!

Claudia Connell, Daily Mail, 24th April 2015

W1A: BBC pulling its pants down & slapping its cheeks

Every episode, for me, is a ticker-tape parade of recognisable woes - not just from my nigh-continuous dealings with the Beeb, but with all channels.

Grace Dent, The Independent, 24th April 2015

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