Trigger Happy TV: Best Of Series One & Two Review
Essentially, Trigger Happy TV is uniquely British in its deviation from the moribund Candid Camera approach to reality TV comedy. It's the sort of humour that divides the nation; people either find it hysterically funny or are simply baffled by the lack of funniness. Dom Joly, presenter and co-creator of the show, has since become a national celebrity, thus foiling his pranks on the public who are now no longer unsuspecting.
Here is a typical sketch from the show: Two men arrive at a house and ring the doorbell. They are completely unaware that they are being filmed. A voice can be heard inside on the door intercom: "Who Is It?" The men reply with "Pest Control", and the voice from inside answers with "Oh good, there's a massive rat inside and I can't get rid of him!" The pest controllers enter the house, and the man on the intercom greets them and hurries them in, saying "He's in here". The pest controllers rush in to the room, and find a man in a rat costume reading a magazine on the settee! They look at each other, not knowing whether to laugh or be royally freaked out!
Whereas Candid Camera and rip-offs like Beadle's About were concerned with playing practical jokes on the public by going to extraordinary lengths to fabricate situations that would sucker the victims in, Trigger Happy TV's policies are deceptively simple. Take for instance, Dom Joly stopping an unsuspecting chap in the street, inviting him to take part in a blindfolded cola challenge, in which the fool samples two colas and attempts to pick the best. However, when the man removes his blindfold, Dom Joly and his camera crew have run away, and placed a 'Help The Homeless' sign next to the poor sap. What's funny about the sketches is not the set-up, and not the payoff, but merely the bemused look on the victim's face, and this is funny because the British public tend to have a unique way of dealing with situations like this. How about the show's trademark sketch, with Joly's gigantic mobile phone ringing that distinctive tone, where he proceeds to have a shouted conversation in front of a quiet public place. Again, this is funny because of the reactions from the public.
Inevitably, you will always find some sketches that work brilliantly and some that fall flat instantly. Of note are the scenes in which two men are dressed up as dogs and violently beat each other up around busy London, being completely ignored by the passers-by. Or Joly dressed up as a traffic warden hailing taxis and given them a ticket for being parked in a 'no stop' zone. Or even Joly dressed as a KGB agent, complete with turned up coat and dark glasses, nonchalantly walking up to a victim asking them if they are 'Red Fox', and being met with complete bafflement. Or what about the motorcycle courier who delivers something to an office, only to be sent into a small room which contains motorcycle couriers bound and gagged! Some scenes don't work, or should that be, there are some scenes that Joly doesn't realise aren't funny, but in the show's defence it's extremely difficult to maintain a consistent quality throughout such as innovative and experimental show.
If you don't find this funny, don't worry; it doesn't translate well in word form, and it might not be your type of humour anyway. In a nutshell, Trigger Happy TV exploits the stiffness of the British persona, and delivers laughs due to the surreality of mundane day-to-day life. Because of Joly's increasing celebrity status, it's probably most advisable that the show stops now after its second series, to avoid the street humour sketches becoming too complicated. Even so, it is extremely evident that after just two series started in relative obscurity, Dom Joly and Trigger Happy TV will forever be regarded as a breath of fresh air to the dying society of television.
Both series are available on separate DVDs, and consists of ninety-minute highlights on each release. As each series contained six thirty-minute shows mathematics will tell you that the DVDs contain half of the material, which allegedly is the best half. Because series one was so fresh and audiences were so unprepared for its arrival, it's the better of the two as Joly and co were clearly starting to run out of ideas by the second series and began indulging more in self-amusement sketches. Don't forget, Joly was the man who admitted phoning up live debates on Sky News, impersonating anti-British foreigners just to liven things up a bit, and this was just for his own amusement!
Trigger Happy TV is seriously funny, and worth snapping up if you consider yourself an admirer of the very best in alternative British comedy. Opt for the first series if you are new to the show, and if you loved that, then the second series is more of the same.
Presented in original 4:3 fullscreen, picture is mediocre at best with lots of grain and murky scenes often occurring, but this is due to the low quality hand-held approach which was the 'secret-camera' style aim of the show.
Sound is mono, which again is due to the covert aspect of the show, apart from the stereo soundtrack which is filled with a great eclectic selection of songs, ranging from Faithless to Elastica to Coldplay to Slade.
Comedy Lab Rare Footage: A fourteen minute compilation of some rare projects that Joly became involved with before Trigger Happy TV, such as mounting a campaign to win the general election with the Teddy Bear Party (who did surprisingly well) or creating a Satanist party and asking Peter Mandelson to be their Ultimate Prince of Darkness! The best bit, and it won't be spoiled, is Joly given fans an extra minute at the end! Although this extra is funny, it's a pity that more though hadn't gone into the DVD production, as the extras presented on series one are swamped by those of series two.
Commentary With Dom Joly And Sam Cadman: Unlike series one, series two has a commentary, and it is a pure delight to listen to if you love the show, as Joly, along with co-creator and cameraman Cadman, are as ruthless to the public in conversation as they were during their sketches. The pair discuss the origins of the sketches and where they were filmed, along with any funny anecdotes they can throw in. They frequently make fun of their victims and make no bones about showing them up further. They even make phone calls during the commentary, which is funny in itself. The commentary extends further into the extras, with the exception of the Dom Live section.
Extra Bits: Some extra sketches that were omitted for various reasons from the show, including a hilarious sketch that was alleged to have been too much like the format employed by Chris Morris. These are quite funny, but don't rank among the best sketches, even if celebrities like Sasha Distel or Paul Weller feature.
Trigger Happy Archives - Television Debuts: Some grainy film footage of Dom Joly's debut on the Mark Thomas Comedy Product where he dresses up as a schoolboy and kicks his football over the wall of Wormwood Scrubs, Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. What's funny is the serious and threatening tone employed by the guards who won't let him have his ball back! Interesting stuff, but slightly puerile compared to Joly's later humour.
Dom Live: A bizarre yet hilarious ten minute stand up show in which Joly in a brilliant alternate disguise, does a stint at the Comedy Store in London. Joly reveals to camera just before that he has never done stand-up before, and claims that for this purpose his name will be Charles Gund, the name Trigger Happy Fans will recognise as the fictional name for Joly's characters in his gags. If anything, this sketch demonstrates just how sadistic Joly is and how far he will go for the ultimate windup. The joke doesn't come from Joly's gags whilst doing his stand-up, because there isn't any, as he deliberately tells a boring and unfunny routine which is purposefully devoid of any jokes. The poor audience initially laughs out of embarrassment, or maybe because they feel like they are promised an enormous punch line. However, THEY are the punch line, and it isn't long before Joly is heckled and eventually pulled off the stage. It certainly is painful to sit through his act, but in hindsight it is funny to recollect on the fact that Joly is obviously heavily in his element watching the painful faces of the Comedy Store audience.
Trigger Happy TV has already developed a healthy cult following; you only have to witness the amount of wannabe copycats who mimic Joly's famous mobile phone sequence with their wretched Nokias! It's hilarious and surreal, and decidedly British, which makes it all the more unique.