Curious British Telly has a few comedy icons who have influenced our sense of humour. Woody Allen always had that talent for mocking our fears, Stewart Lee counters the hypocrisy of the world we live in and Paul Rose introduced us to Mr T and his bins. What's that I hear you cry? Paul Rose? Oh, you may know him better by his name of Mr Biffo. Anyone? You there at the back? Mr Biffo? No? FOOLS! It's become painfully obvious that it's time you watched Biffovision.
A spoof of saturday morning kids TV, Biffovision saw Hugo Visage (James Lance) leading fellow cast members such as BW (an irritating puppet) and Peggy Pigstrap (Ingrid Oliver). The show took no prisoners and mocked American import cartoons, machine like reviews of pop music and the fact that on live TV anything can go wrong. Several sketches were inserted throughout the show which featured performances from Jim Howick, Daniel Lawrence Taylor and Paul Rose himself.
Biffovision was a one off comedy pilot produced by Hartswood Films for BBC3 and broadcast on 26th March at the unenviable time of 3.15am. The show's rather strange broadcast time was, apparently, down to it being the end of the financial year and the only slot available. It was promised a better repeat slot and had to settle for midnight on 5th June - hardly an improvement. As you can probably guess by the show's title, Mr Biffo aka Paul Rose was behind its concept. Helping with the writing was Mr Biffo's old friend Tim Moore who between them had created the Channel 4 teletext series Digitiser. Directing the proceedings was Richard Boden who has been involved with everything from Blackadder, The IT Crowd and even Life of Riley.
As mentioned above, Paul Rose is something of a hero to us. He was the driving force behind Digitiser for ten years. Every morning we would get up early so we could view the latest edition before heading off to school/work; pretty much every day saw us rolling about on the sofa convulsing with laughter at the surreal insanity of it all. It was a world away from Channel 4's Teletext mascot Turner the Worm and saw a mixture of blocky 8-bit weregiraffes mixing it up with crank calls to the video games industry. It was very dadaist in nature and developed a cult following who, to this day, still quote phrases such as "And!", "Keep away from Mr T's Bins!" and "moc moc a moc!".
Despite being a huge Mr Biffo fan we somehow missed the original broadcasts of Biffovision and didn't become aware of them until a few years later. We've recently revisited the show for the purposes of this blog and were glad to find it still in fine fettle.
It's closest relative is Look Around You, but the lampooning nature of the show also calls to mind This Morning with Richard Not Judy albeit it slightly less knowing. Saturday morning kids TV was always packed full of cliches, so it's an environment rich for spoofing. Whether this environment could have sustained a whole six part series is up for debate, but with some tinkering such as giving other characters more to do then it could have pulled it off.
James Lance brings his laid back charm to the role of Hugo, but manages to create a sense that underneath this cool persona lays the soul of a tortured presenter. One who would much rather be hosting Saturday night primetime than mucking about with awful puppets. It never did Schofield any harm though, so maybe Mr Visage just needed to hang in there. As mentioned above, the other characters aren't given that much room to breathe, although the megalomaniac Professor Derek Doctors had the potential to be quite sinister what with his vapourising eye laser. Ingrid Oliver plays the role of reliably positive female presenter well, but it would have been nice if her character had been given a bit more depth.
Paul Rose and Tim Moore have really let their minds off the creative leash with Biffovision. The sketches running throughout are quite, quite hilarious. The 'Mr Botton' sketch is a flash of surreal genius that Vic and Bob would be proud of and the 'Futurewest Telecom' sketch could easily slip into an episode of Big Train. The 'animal section' desecrates the grave of The Really Wild Show by deciding to explore the world of tortoise pickling which is met with cheers from the young studio audience. Then there are the lovely little suureal quips such as when a mysterious character in a top hat and cape approaches two children and one remarks "It's Santa Claus!". There's a lot of this anti-humour on show and is another nod to Vic and Bob's tireless pursuit of the 'non-joke'.
As you can probably guess, we absolutely loved Biffovision. There's a lot of love online for the show, but there are also several comments saying that the show was just random nonsense. It's an acquired taste, that's for sure, but it's a shame the BBC gave it such dreadful timeslots. BBC3 is very much the channel for the youth and they may well have taken this to their heart. Perhaps it was best off as a one off due to the format being in danger of running out of steam. Paul Rose mostly works in children's TV now, but we feel it's a great loss to the nation's funny bone that he isn't tackling more ground in the adult hemisphere of comedy. Tim Moore, meanwhile, is busy writing travel books with a humourous edge. Biffovision is hosted on YouTube, so head over there and see what all the fuss is about.