Author Topic: Why the Amelia Gething Complex Series 2 is Zoomer Perfection…  (Read 974 times)

Talulah, really!

  • O, belike it is the Bishop of Carlisle
…is exactly the sort of clickbaity thread title we need right now.

The second series of The Ameila Gething Complex has landed on BBC iPlayer and will be broadcast on BBC2 in April.
And you know what? It is seriously, seriously good.

In an objective way.

Subjectively, of course, you will hate it. It is a Defang the BBC show, made by the BBC Childrens’ Unit a show based around a 20 year female Youtuber/tiktok/content creator type young person of which there are so many these days. The show is a spoof sit-com that is endlessly self-referential, meta wacky and stuffed to the turbot’s gills with lol random humour. Imagine the Mighty Boosh, imagine it made for kids, square it, square it with your conscience, think of another number, multiply by that, go and add a forth, go forth and add again, cube it, literally cube it again, go add the amount of cubic litres in a fifth of the Firth of Forth, it will still be more annoying to you than that sentence. You will hate it.

That matters not, because it is just objectively good. The best sketch show the BBC has made in years by the look of it. Long after it appeared sketch shows were abandoned, seemingly on grounds of cost, too many scenes, too many locations, too many characters and costumes, too many props. Then along comes a group of people in the Childrens’ Department and get around all those problems and just make…well this. A sketch show which is also a sit-com or rather a sketch show which is set in a world which thinks it is a sit-com which allows you to cut to sketches anytime you like, so something like the sit-com universe of The Young Ones/The Mighty Boosh/Family Guy/The Goodies and very much free flowing all the way back to the Goons.

At first the sheer blizzard of reference points hits the eyeballs like a splattering of shrapnel. It’s like all the things already mentioned, it’s like Limmy’s Show, it’s like League of Gentlemen stitched together with old patches[1] of Monty Python, it’s French and Saunders, it’s probably like some American things I don’t watch like Rick and Morty, it’s definitely like Rik and Ade or maybe Vic and Bob and because it is the BBC it is probably the same prop comedy frying pans.

You could play spot[2] the references/acknowledge the influences/point out the homage/J’accuse[3] the joke thieving as you wish. It is point missing I think because what we are seeing is not lazy cobbling together of material seen elsewhere earlier as a lot of childrens’ TV has been rather it is the cultural retooling of a new generation whereby two cultural changes are finally emerging fully above ground. That is a generation growing up in a world where all culture is just out there on the web waiting to be viewed where and when you want it, not curated and delivered in linear mediums and this goes hand in hand with the idea of technological sampling, taking a sound or image or style or idea from one place and putting in juxtaposition with something else to create something new. And yes if you are well versed enough you can identify all the individual elements, however that should not stop you being capable of also appreciating the range of sources and the work gone into in using them which is where I think you can make an objective claim that this is good as opposed to lazy hackery, because as well as craft and capability[4] there can be observed commitment and vision.

So to that end, will now over analyse the sketch where I realised with awe I was watching some new comedy and feeling something like a euphoria because for the first time in ages I was in actual wonderment at it, who is this for? Who is making this? Why are they going to so much effort? What is the logic of this show? What is comedy? Why isn’t everything else on TV this good?

At first I’d been blinded by the overwhelming feeling of this all being kind of like something I’d seen before then I just put it down to the fact each show has around 5 writers including Amelia Gething, but then everything on TV has 5 writers, every movie has 5 writers, every song has 5 writers, doesn’t mean anything. Numbers aren’t alchemy. You can have a load of bodies in a room[5]

To the sketch then, The Amelia Gething Complex, Series 2, Episode 5 “Merry Christmas, humans”, it starts at 5 minutes 10 seconds. The show set up is that every sit-com has a nice, easy to write Christmas Episode and so, lazy as ever, that is what they will do, only to find that they kill Santa in the opening titles. The sketch is that most clichéd of current comedy writing at Christmas, a parody of the John Lewis Christmas Advert.

Well, except it isn’t, it is almost a parody of being so hacky you would do something like that, so, yes it opens, as we say in our post-Beth Harmon world, with the gambit of ‘comically inappropriate song to do in the breathy female vocal with haunted piano’ style of these kinds of adverts.

The sketch itself is an entirely self-contained item centred around a cursed Advent Calendar, it is a full on portmanteau horror story told in around 90 seconds observing every key dramatic step on the way before circling round to the classic and then the cursed object was sold on to a new person ending which then leads into an actual, yes an actual working punchline and when did we last see one of those things in the wild.

Let’s dig deeper though and savour the details all the more to show the work that has went into this mere 2 minute sketch.
First of all, the choice of song is precision perfect, exactly on the right part of the Goldilocks[6] scale of being recognisable yet not too obvious a choice whilst simultaneously being suitably kitsch that doing it in that faux-serious slowed down stripped down manner is obviously absurd enough in itself to be funny, the arrangement is understated not belabouring the point, a sign of confidence, yet with just a shimmer of mockery of the style to further gild the joke, if it was overdone it the sketch would B flat whereas here it enhances it and is A Major plus.[7]

The idea of the cursed Advent Calendar story and its execution is marvellous, it’s like watching a capsule version of Inside no 9 in Inside 90 seconds.

Just look at the lovely way it is developed on classical lines of the rule of three. So Poppy buys an advent calendar from a Christmas Market stall. She opens the first window, it is a robin, and then a robin appears, Joy! (Establishment).
Next she opens the second window, a snowman and lo, a snowman appears, Rapture! (Reinforcement).

Expectantly then, she opens the next window, only to find it is predicting something bad is going to happen to her friend Wallace. Oh, no. And on account of her following the prediction and going to see Wallace he falls off the stool and hurts himself, the prediction has come true but it is a bad prediction. (Subversion).

And this Subversion of the first rule of three sequence is now the establishment of the next sequence, bad things happen because the calendar predicted them. This is reinforced when she opens the window to a picture of Amelia rubbing her head in pain. Poppy throws the evil calendar out the window, where upon it hits Amelia on the head.

This is just beautiful, acting out Greek Tragedy with its curses that only come true because people try to avoid the curse coming through, all in the space of 30 seconds.

And check out just how well that literal throwaway gag is done, the sound editing alone sells the punchline of the calendar hitting directly on Amelia, yet this show swoops in with a simply gorgeous Wes Anderson shot looking down on Amelia from above just to sign it off with a flourish, this is what I mean by this show being so much better than it needs to be.

So now with the cursed calendar motif established the next scene plays on the well-established horror movie cliché of focussing the viewer’s attention on a particular item in the shot, that knife is looking dangerous, is Poppy bring another accursed accident upon her friend, well, kind of, yet not because we have reached the subversion stage, so not an accident, but, er, random, antlers on her head which is at once both Christmasy (harking back) and slightly Occult (looking forward now) as the establishment of the next stage where it goes full horror.

Well, technically we take a swift detour to an extra window, Poppy looking at herself looking at the calendar looking at the calendar looking at herself looking at the calendar, on and on (Gething loves those recursive jokes, there is one in almost every episode) then the next set come in very swift fashion, Poppy looking scared (establishment), Sinister Old Man (Reinforcement) then phew, it is just a picture of a traditional Christmas item, a Gingerbread Man (Subversion) and then, of course, the pull back and reveal that Poppy is being turned into a Gingerbread Man. All the narratives collapsing into one. Notice also the way the editing sped up throughout the sketch to match the intensity of the narrative, all the elements of production, writing and direction working together.

Then a final scene returning to the start, (helps reaffirm the sinister man was the stall holder all along) this time with Vinnie, antlers on head, buying another cursed calendar and so the whole wretched business will continue.  I saw this story at the cinema, it was called In Fabric by Peter Strickland and it wasn’t all done in 90 odd seconds.

And then it has a proper punchline, I didn’t even get it that it was a punchline the first time[8], thought it was just a visual placeholder to tell you the sketch had finished. Which by the way, it hasn’t, two elements in it go on to be used later in the episode and get further transformed into call back running gags. This team keep building up the texture all the way through the series, it runs the whole gamut of call backs, catchphrases, foreshadowing, Easter eggs, call them what you will. They cram gags into every inch of the script and the screen, every episode abounding with fake headlines on all those newspapers that 21st century’s 20 year olds don’t read.

As in the sketch above, look at the work that must have gone into creating that calendar and then imagine that in this day and age Gething has taken that sketch into a BBC production team and said, we’ll need someone to do a mockup Advent Calendar prop with paintings, uniquely made for this one sketch and not only have they okayed it, they also went and got the rights to cover a British Eurovision winner, all for just a two minute sketch.[9]

So, anyway, if you want to dip your toes in, episode 6 “Lemon Lemon Lemon Lemon Lemon?!” is strong from the opening sketch onwards and basically plays out as a generation brought up on the visual grammar of Edgar Wright trying to create what they imagine an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus[10] is like based on a Wikipedia summary that has been pushed through Google Translate a few too many times.

Anyway, The Amelia Gething Complex Series 2, I quite like it.


 



 
 1. No animals were harmed in the making of this post.
 2. He wasn’t harmed either.[1]
 1. Footnotes, I’ve missed you.
 3. That’s your actual French…[1]
 1. See, I know how to do these things.
 4. With Jane Austen’s finest heroine Emma Woodworker.
 5. Err, not during Covid you can’t.[1]
 1. Doctor’s Note there.
 6. It’s true I tell you!
 7. Give it a rest.
 8. Think of it alluding to Mr Show’s The Fairsley Difference Sketch
 9. Admittedly they may have spent so much of the budget doing stuff like this, they had no money left over for episode 8, a clip show with some linking sketches.[1]
 1. Though there have been other shows that have done similar, so maybe it is a provocative bit of media cynicism.
 10. It is noticeable that series 2’s episode titles are all suitably Pythonesque whereas series 1 all echoed the Young Ones.

Re: Why the Amelia Gething Complex Series 2 is Zoomer Perfection…
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2021, 09:25:39 PM »
Having been inspired by this post to watch a few episodes... as you suggest, I spent a while thinking it was just stuff I'd seen done before by Python/Goodies/Mighty Boosh/whoever; but once I got past that, I really enjoyed it. (Plus I think the show improves as it goes along). And I second your claim that the amount of effort put into the props/background gags (and, for the advent calendar sketch, the music) is impressive.

Also, Amelia Gething seems very familiar considering she hasn't been in anything else I've seen. Apparently people often say she looks like Anne Hathaway, so maybe that's it.

Checking IMDB, the reviews are twenty or so giving it 10/10, one of 9/10, and three of 1/10, which I think is unusually "love it or hate it" even by online review standards.

Captain Z

  • Die Hard or Die Tryin'
Re: Why the Amelia Gething Complex Series 2 is Zoomer Perfection…
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2021, 09:36:23 PM »
Massive Tim & Eric vibes, to add to your list of obvious influences. Also enjoying so far, thanks for recommending.

neveragain

  • like those swamp tar pits that bubble and go Gloop
Re: Why the Amelia Gething Complex Series 2 is Zoomer Perfection…
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2021, 06:26:19 PM »
Thanks for the heads up. Based on your rec (and a promising trailer on Youtube), I shall give this a go.

Captain Z

  • Die Hard or Die Tryin'
Re: Why the Amelia Gething Complex Series 2 is Zoomer Perfection…
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2021, 08:29:36 PM »
Slightly OT but it was driving me mad trying to remember what the squelchy bass at the start of the theme tune reminded me of. The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds. It’s so close it surely must be an homage by the composer.

Talulah, really!

  • O, belike it is the Bishop of Carlisle
Re: Why the Amelia Gething Complex Series 2 is Zoomer Perfection…
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2021, 09:10:48 AM »
Thanks guys for taking the time to wade through that opening post and try this show out and glad you seemed to enjoy for similar reasons to me, the sheer amount of effort they are putting in to fill it with jokes of all kinds gives it enough zip and charm to carry it past the obvious influences, plus it is only about 15 minutes per episode.

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