Bo Selecta, Complete First Series Review
It is a testament to the success of Bo Selecta that when members of the public turn their mind to Craig David, which one suspects is a rather infrequent occurrence, that it is not to a Southampton-born R&B and garage star but to a young Yorkshire lad who has poor bladder control, a peregrine falcon called Kes, an inability to tell America from Majorca and a habit of pronouncing the good things in life as being, "Proper Bo! I tell thee." Never heard of Bo Selecta? Then it's time for a quick explanation.
Bo Selecta, named after a Craig David/Artful Dodger song Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta), is a sketch show that principally features Avid Merrion (Leigh Francis) as a celebrity stalker/fan obsessively tracking down the type of very minor stars favoured by magazines such as Heat, Now and OK!, which includes Davina McCall, Jade from Big Brother 3, Tess Daly and Penny Smith (GMTV news reader). He also lives in a house with his dead mother, who he keeps in a cupboard, and Craig from Big Brother 1, who either lives in the toilet or is chained-up in Avid's bed. Bo Selecta follows Avid Merrion as he tours book-signings, press interviews and awards ceremonies to tell lowly darlings of the tabloids how much they make him want to do a sex-wee, touch their fanjita and do one-handed yoga.
However, other than Avid Merrion, Bo Selecta stars a bunch of rubber-masked impersonations of, amongst others, Michael Jackson, Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne, David Blaine, Britney Spears and Mel B, as well as the aforementioned Craig David, not one of whom are portrayed affectionately. Finally, there is The Bear, a sex-obsessed mini-grizzly who lives in a tree house in Hampstead Heath and interviews female celebrities and for whom the interview will end with the sight of The Bear failing to stop his tail from popping out, something that is forever greeted with the thought and the shout of, "Christine Hamilton! Christine Hamilton!". Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bo Selecta. Thank you please!
As a character, Avid Merrion started out by recording short inserts for satellite and cable channel E4 during 2002's Big Brother 3, moving to record a pilot episode set wholly in a studio environment and featuring an interview with Davina McCall. At its best, it can be riotously funny with Avid Merrion exhibiting precious little shame in his pursuit of Z-list celebrities, including the following of Jade down a London street and an interview with Penny Smith in her dressing room, which sees Merrion disrobing in an attempt to show her how hairy his body is. Those who do not recall Big Brother with any fondness will find pleasure in the humiliation heaped upon gimp-collar-wearing The Craig (Craig Philips) by Merrion, clad only in his underwear and sharing a bed with the Liverpudlian joiner.
Aside from Merrion, the two best characters - Michael Jackson and Craig David - get the pick of what is often richly amusing dialogue, with the former being a series of ticks, dance moves, crotch grabs and "Shamone, mofo"'s, spat out as easily as breathing. Given his celebrity friends, this also allows Jackson to comment on other well-known people, dismissing Uri Geller as, "...spoon-bending mofo. You take a spoon away from him and he be crying like a baby! Shamone!" That Jackson also lives beside Ozzy Osbourne offers a genuinely cracking moment when Ozzy first appears on the screen, arms down to his knees and mumbling all his unbleeped dialogue in a strong Brummie accent. It is to Craig David, however, that the best moments go, whether his is out on Yorkshire farmland trying to retrieve his falcon, dressed as Willy Wonka for his latest video or waking up with in a hotel room in Majorca having wet his bed again, he is the most consistently funny character here.
However, whilst Bo Selecta can be occasionally hilarious, it does also suffer from a lack of variation, something that also afflicted The Fast Show. This can mean either one of two things - the writers just don't have that much good material to work from and are stretching themselves here or that it's very much aimed at students and Colin Hunts (office joker from The Fast Show) of this world, who believe that by simply quoting the same dialogue as comedy stars, they are equally funny. Hence, on an average night out, bars and pubs resound with self-proclaimed funnymen saying, "Shamone!". For sure, that's funny... Whilst The League Of Gentlemen tried to move away from the catch phrases of Edward and Tubbs with its third series, including the tiresome, "Are you local?", you suspect that Bo Selecta will still be trading on this same group of characters some way into its fourth series, were it to actually get that far. What this means is that the first episode or so is original and funny but by episodes five and six, only Michael Jackson and Craig David bring a smile, with Britney Spears, Mel B and Geri Halliwell being the worst of the lot. Given that the joke with Britney Spears, repeated at least twice an episode, is that she likes a pint, this is one that has been stretched, broken and patched up more than once. Additionally, some characters are just hopeless, with John Lennon - joke is...he's dead - being a particularly poor one.
The other main problem with the series is that it can make one feel a little queasy at the manner in which the female guests are treated. This ranges from the obsessiveness with which Merrion pursues Penny Smith, Mariella Frostrup and Davina McCall to a woman in the street having her breasts groped by Bo Selecta's David Blaine. A blast through the straight-out comedy of the show is fine but Bo Selecta can occasionally appear to be little more than the musings of an emotionally stunted adolescent. If that is the joke, then, like some of the impersonations, it's told too often to be funny.
Bo Selecta has been transferred anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, as it was shown on Channel 4 in 2002, and doesn't look particularly good. Admittedly Bo Selecta was filmed on video but the transfer onto DVD is noticeably lacking in quality and pausing the DVD will reveal a terrible picture quality, with jagged edges to each character, motion blur and a washed-out look revealing an inability to capture the rich colours in a number of locations. Bo Selecta may have been cheap to produce but it also looks cheap and the makers should have realised the former does not have to mean the latter.
The series is presented in its original 2.0 Stereo audio track and sounds fine if unspectacular. On the plus side, however, the audio track is clean with little noise that can be detected and a bright and immediate impact, even in the scenes with a substantial amount of dialogue.
Bo Selecta is presented with a fair number of extras but few of them add anything to the experience of watching, or even understanding, the show:
Commentary: Star of the series Leigh Francis, in character as Avid Merrion, director Ben Palmer and producer Spencer Millman contribute a commentary to each of the six episodes on the disc but give little away as regards the origin of the show, the development of the impersonations or the reactions to Merrion's comments, preferring instead to offer Francis little more than another opportunity to say tats, sex-wee and fanjita. This commentary is not subtitled.
Behind The Scenes (11m29s, 1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This is a short feature on the cast and crew speaking about what it's like to work on Bo Selecta. There are also a small number of behind-the-scenes sequences but nothing of any real interest.
Deleted Scenes (1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Following an introduction by Avid Merrion, fifteen deleted scenes follow, some of which are funnier than what appeared in the finished show:
- Gareth Gates #1 (44s)
- David Blaine (1m15s)
- Michael Jackson (28s)
- Gareth Gates #2 (1m54s)
- Geri Halliwell (40s)
- David Blaine (45s)
- Michael Jackson (53s)
- Gareth Gates #3 (1m14s)
- Michael Jackson (53s)
- David Blaine (37s)
- Michael Jackson (21s)
- Gareth Gates #4 (43s)
- Avid's Talk Show (2m53s)
- Michael Jackson (33s)
- Gareth Gates #5 (28s)
The Gareth Gates deleted scenes are the only ones that work as a series of sketches being a parody of John's Not Mad, the episode of QED about a young boy with Tourette's Syndrome. Each deleted scene is subtitled but the associated commentary track on each is not.
Bloop Selecta (13m08s, 1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This is a typical collection of bloopers that, in years to come, will ITV viewers wondering aloud who the guy with the rubber masks is as they sit and watch It'll Be Alright On The Night XVII. As expected, fluffed lines and the cast falling over or bumping into the camera are all present and correct but unless you're the type of viewer that finds a young girl pronouncing Grand Prix as Grand Pricks, there is little of value here.
Craig David's Life Story (9m04s, 1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Presented by Kate Thornton, this contains two interviews with Craig David interspersed with footage from the show. Given that Craig David is one of the show's better characters, this is also one of the better extras.
Trailers (2m14s, 1.85:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This features four trailers from Channel 4's promotion of the series during the showing of the first series.
The main issue with these extras is one that they have in common with the main series, in that the small number of jokes can become repetitive with only the Craig David, Michael Jackson and David Blaine characters standing out.
One suspects that there are few people who are buying this DVD who are not already fans of the television show, given that it is not the type of comedy show that will necessarily appeal to a large audience. Expect it to sit on the shelves of either collectors of comedy television series or students who are well-off enough to afford regular purchases of DVD's. For those more keen on the essentials in life, including better comedy than this, I wouldn't bother - only recommended for devoted fans.