Tim Clark21 February 2012
Last night’s long-awaited premiere of new sketch show Watson & Oliver has been met with a mixed critical response.
The Arts Desk said the BBC had made the right move to launch the pair straight on to BBC Two rather than the usual testing ground of BBC Three, adding the pair have ‘original writing and superb acting bring a freshness to the form that has served Morecamble [sic]and Wise, French and Saunders, the Two Ronnies and other greats so well’. They picked out the Playboy bunnies and Georgian ladies sketches for a special mention.
The Guardian also warned that while it was ‘about as edgy as Lorraine Kelly's guide to budget family dinners’, that ‘if you long for the cheekily innocent days of French & Saunders, Watson & Oliver looks set to satisfy that itch’.
By contrast On The Box said jokes felt ‘shallow and obvious, with a tedious reliance upon the gurning visage of Watson in almost every sketch’, and described the BBC Two slot as ‘vastly premature’.
The Daily Star summarised: “Watson & Oliver would no doubt love to become the new French & Saunders, but on this early evidence the only thing the duos have in common is they both think they’re way funnier than they actually are. Not so much Watson & Oliver, then, as Watson The Other Side.”
The French and Saunders tag – which seems to have stuck since a Guardian piece on the pair’s TV prospects way back in 2009 – along with the Morecambe and Wise comparison, is certainly presenting the pair with a significant benchmark that few think they are reaching, says TV Pixie.
“[I]f we are comparing, they don't quite manage to reach the heights of any of the above, but do appear to have fun trying,”
The Mirror also warned that ‘what they are lacking right now is better material’.
“We’re not writing them off yet – we’re just saying they should write off their writers and get some new ones,” it added.
The series will run for six episodes and is co-produced by head of BBC in-house comedy Mark Freeland and Look Around You’s Robert Popper.