Why White Van Man is the best new comedy this year (so far)
Andrew Mickel15 April 2011
We take a look at the new series White Van Man, which after a few episodes is shaping up to be possibly the best new comedy this year (pending whatever else is released in the next eight months)...
The trailer for White Van Man, showing precisely nothing of interest going on, was probably enough for most people to write it off as a Two Pints replacement: Will Mellor, wanking jokes and overenthusiastic audiences, but a profound lack of anything actually funny.
They would be wrong. Instead, White Van Man is the best new comedy that's made it to screens this year. And this is why.
Never forget: Will Mellor is very good at acting
Which needs pointing out because Will Mellor is also very good at looking like he's an idiot. A founding father of Hollyoaks; his pop career; and most pointedly, Two Pints. But! Remember that this is a man who also played a frustrated gay man in The Street opposite Vincent Regan, in which he was really very actually good.
This proves he is not an idiot. And playing an idiot is much harder than actually being one. (Also, for the record, Will Mellor doesn't even play an idiot in White Van Man, and instead plays a perpetually baffled man. But the point stands. Mellor = our generation's Olivier, or something similar).
It looks like quite a nice, if disorientating, world to live in
White Van Man is super lovely and nice. Everyone, from the elderly to the local thieves, are remarkably cheery and yet Ollie (Mellor) still finds it hard to understand all of society's hidden and codes and social niceties that everyone else seems to have the cheat sheet for.
For example: in episode two, Ollie accidentally starts touting for work in other handymen's areas (stop sniggering at the back) which everyone else knows about, accidentally triggering an inter-handyman war. And do you know what other programme does that all the time? 30 ROCK. I'm not saying that White Van Man is the British 30 Rock or anything, but it does deserve 16 Emmys. Or something similar.
Joel Fry is bloody awesome
Besides every baffled lead needs to be an idiot assistant who regardless of his stupidity 'gets' it all and knows everyone, and blimey, Joel Fry is good at doing that. All gangly limbs and easy charm, Fry's Darren can sit back and laugh at Olly doing it all wrong, normally while getting his end away.
And gangly limbs are also very useful for physical comedy, which White Van Man uses in suitable moderation. Trying to single-handedly steal a sofa from a blind woman? PHYSICAL COMEDY GOLD.
A roster of guest stars that is simultaneously tatty and amazing
That bloke off of Desmond's. Ricky Grover. Joanna Page. And the international sign that something amazing is going on, DEXTER BLOODY FLETCHER, apparently a bit hard up since Hotel Babylon was axed. This was all good stuff, but last week something truly magical happened: Sandra Dickinson turned up.
For readers under the age of 25, Sandra Dickinson spent the mid-nineties passing through the early nineties light entertainment circuit being very nice and oddly voiced, including the trifecta of shiny floor shoes: Noel's House Party, Blankety Blank and You Bet. She therefore occupies the same place in my heart as Vicky Michelle and Bob Carolgees and any programme that gets her on TV is due a Bafta.
The plots have balls
White Van Man creates some new plotlines, but also attacks classic storylines with equal gusto. An episode might see Darren abducting old people to let them have fun is comfortably intertwined with a plot where Olly accidentally starting a protest against one of his clients.
And they are actual plots where things happen, avoiding the hole that 90 per cent of sitcoms fall into of trying to do some post-Seinfeld analysis of minor everyday happenings, just without any of the wit or wisdom. It feels like so long since that happened that it is actually refreshing to see stuff happen.
It's like the sort of BBC Three sitcom like they used to make
White Van Man can proudly sit alongside 15 Storeys High and Pulling as confident comedy that also happens to be fantastically breezy. Who knew comedy could be scheduled to suit the season?
Your rating: None
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