Telly Thursday: Feeding iCandy to a Baby

Posted on April 22, 2010

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Channel 4’s Comedy Lab is a bit of a hothouse for helping talent find an audience, exposure (probably not a pun) and getting a foot up a couple of paces on the career ladder. Indeed Jimmy Carr and Peter Kay are some of its past inmates.

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And Channel 4 has a particular relationship with Irish comedy as well. Chances are, in the last 15 years that if you wanted to sit down and watch good Irish comedy, you were going to find it on Channel 4 rather than RTE, the likes of Fr Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd all making their way across the water to garner success.

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So, sitting down to watch the pilot of Liam Hourican’s new series iCandy on Monday night was a move filled with anticipation. Irish Comedy on Channel 4 – lovely.

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Taking the interface of an Apple iPhone, the half hour show scrolls through video choices, opening the select sketches while other amusing choices flank them. Now, not to pour cold water on the show but the sketches we didn’t see looked a lot more interesting than the ones we did – JayZ & The Pope? Come on, we so should have been shown that one!

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Our first sketch shows Hourican playing Mick Connor, the newly elected Irish Prime Minister and god help us but we only think we’ve got it bad at the moment with Cowen, Coughlan and Co. A bare knuckle boxing traveller, his modus operandi is to ‘fight anyone’. I must admit his offer to Kim Jong Il to dump all of his nuclear weaponry in the Irish Sea did raise a chuckle from my otherwise largely unused giggle valves.

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Other characters include a teacher obsessed with The Matrix whose students just wish he’d tell them something about Romeo & Juliet, a verbally abusive driving tester and an unsympathetic life coach who at one point suggests to a caller that ‘it’s time to end it’. We also meet Peter Stringfellow who’s teaching a small community how to be classy and Louis Theroux who puts Michael Jackson in some hot water at the gates of Heaven.

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It’s hard to describe the humour in the show, I suppose topical absurdity might be one way but at the same time, it doesn’t really matter because the only description that matters when reviewing comedy series is: funny or not funny. And unfortunately for Hourican, Channel 4 and us, the audience, it is the latter.

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There’s nothing new in any of the humour, in fact a lot of it is the kind of thing you’d think yourself while watching the news or a soap, which is usually fine when it’s executed in a better way than what it is in this. There isn’t a single moment of ‘split your side’ humour like most other shows of this kind, which is obviously a major flaw because sketch shows main purpose is, obviously to make you laugh.

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RTE’s The Savage Eye earlier this year, though not exactly up there with the top comedy sketch shows did the topical absurdism better than this does, probably because it was only broadcasting to an Irish audience and thus wasn’t so limited in what it could do.

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iCandy suffers ultimately from feeling like a tired, rehash of sketches we’ve all seen before, and done better, for that matter. And I suppose, that’s something that’s against it really is the fact that there have been so many sketch shows that it’s difficult to find new ways of looking at old material but it’s no excuse for some of the sketches we see in this, none of which will make any Top 50 Sketch Lists.

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Checking out the Channel 4 listings on the website, it remains to be seen whether iCandy will be a one-off or part of a series. It’s available on 4 On Demand for another 27 days but don’t expect too much if you sit down to view it.

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iCandy is available on 4OD for a limited time. It aired on Monday 19th April as part of Channel 4’s Comedy Lab.


Posted in: Reviews