Bo In The USA Review
If last year's Celebrity Big Brother taught us anything, it's that Dirk Benedict is still a star, Shilpa Shetty can remain dignified even in the midst of an argument about stock cubes and Jade Goody is quite awful. Actually, I think even those with the Goody autobiographies sitting lonely on their bookshelf, a bottle of Shhh! in their bathroom and an envelope of unclaimed sponsorship money from Goody's failure to complete the London Marathon - a diet of Chinese takeaways might have been what failed her - could have told you that Jade Goody was unpleasant but it was a good to have it clarified by the woman herself.
However, it did teach me one other thing, that of the influence of John Noel. As unpleasant as it was to watch Jade Goody, it was equally unpleasant to watch Russel Brand expand upon his one joke - ballbags or some such - with a limp defence of Jade Goody along the lines of, "It's a difficult one..." Same goes for Dermot O'Leary defending Goody on Big Brother's Little Brother and his being left speechless as Nina Wadia and Dave Gorman both accused her of racism. Finally, Davina McCall interrogated Jade Goody after her eviction with all the steeliness of a feather pillow, proving that, whatever else she has been ill-advised to do she should not ever front Newsnight. And who would the agent behind Brand, Goody, O'Leary and McCall happen to be? John Noel as it happens, which might go some way to explain why the dreadful Goody got a much easier post-eviction interview from McCall than did Jo O'Meara.
So to Bo In The USA, a show that in its Bo Selecta guise always used to have an unhealthy preoccupation with Davina McCall. A visit to the John Noel website shows up Leigh Francis, the comedian behind Bo Selecta. One would seem to explain the other. With this having been produced before the Celebrity Big Brother fracas, John Noel (who executive produces) makes sure that Goody appears for no apparent reason as well as another client of his, Cleo Rocos. One suspects that this kind of thing goes on all the time but to see it all so clearly leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Was Bo In The USA crippled by the need keep the roster of John Noel clients in work? Or was it just not funny to begin with? Either way, calling this a comedy is like shaping a large turd to look like a turkey and serving it for Christmas dinner.
Speaking of Christmas, remember those seasonal specials in which Terry And June, Victor Meldrew and the cast of 'Allo 'Allo would leave their normal environs and head for pastures new. Terry And June would leave suburbia for France, Victor Meldrew to the Algarve and 'Allo 'Allo to the Russian Front in search of the Madonna with ze big boobies. Bo In The USA carries on this tradition by relocating Avid Merrion (Leigh Francis) and his wife and sister Sacha (Barunka O'Shaughnessy) to a hotel in Los Angeles. A hotel that seems to be the favourite home-away-from-home of Craig David, Simon Cowell, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Jackson and Mel B. Same people, same gags, same tired look of having seen it all on my face.
The show opens with Avid and Sacha inviting us into their hotel. Holly Valance is lazing by the pool, the Mexican Wolf-Boys are cleaning up the driveway and Craig David is taking Kes for a swim. The Bear interviews Jenny McCarthy and Cleo Rocos nurses Stallone and Schwarzenegger at the Last Action Hospice. Things continue in this vein for a further five episodes. Craig David eventually works his way out of the pool and onto the same lounger as Valance. Keith Lemon, arriving stateside from Manchester, goes in search of Fabio to front the advertising campaign for Securipole, Avid searches out Shannon Doherty for roller-blading and the Bear eventually gets his own show. Michael Jackson hosts Pimp My Bride, Titty Tennis and makes a few calls to Martin Bashir ("Hello, is that Martin Bashir?" / "Yes..." / "Motherfucker! Chamone!" etc.) while Keith Lemon learns about the end of the world from a giant bunny rabbit with the face of Craig David.
In writing about Star Stories, Channel 4's celebrity-fueled comedy, I said that all of the writers' best jokes come in the first minute or so. And as funny as that is, there isn't very much more after that first gag wears off. Alex Ferguson is on full hairdryer fury every minute of the day while Kirk Douglas is still dressed like Spartacus but they have mere minutes of screen time and do not drift between episodes. It's very best gags come and go in seconds - "Michael Winner: "I've made some shit - but Swept Away is total bollocks!" is a perfect example. Happily, Star Stories works because it doesn't hang about.
Bo In The USA is the very opposite of that with this telling exactly the same jokes as did Bo Selecta five years ago. It isn't that I don't find, or have never found, Bo Selecta funny. Back in the opening minutes of the very first episode of the first series, I was crying at the sight of Michael Jackson giving us a tour of his home, including an introduction to his neighbour Ozzy Osbourne, the bowl full of bent spoons left by Uri Geller and the truth about Bubbles. "Y'all didn't think she was a monkey? Chamone!" Same goes for Craig David. However, five years on and with the same characters and jokes, is there anyone still laughing at this? Actually, it's worth asking if there was anyone the first time around who thought the Mel B character funny? And if they did, are they still laughing now?
Bo In The USA has the very slimmest of reasons to explain it being produced, taking something that must have some size of audience and bringing it to a new location in the hope of wringing laughs out of a very familiar situation. However, it's just as welcome as those Christmas specials, which means it isn't very welcome at all.
This is largely a reprint of what I wrote for the DVD release of series one of Bo Selecta back in 2002. Bo In The USA has been transferred anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 as it was shown on Channel 4 this year and looks reasonable but not outstanding. Produced on video, the transfer onto DVD is noticeably lacking in detail and pausing the DVD will reveal a terrible picture quality, with jagged edges to each character and motion blur, most noticeable with the end credits that are all but unreadable. Bo In The USA 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. Finally, there are English subtitles.
On the first disc, the only bonus material is a set of Commentaries on all six episodes featuring Leigh Francis, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Ben Palmer. In spite of being one who's often very fond of commentaries, six commentaries does seem much too much. Given that it's comedy, or purports to be, these commentaries are less about a study of the gags as memories of the filming, Leigh Francis and Ben Palmer laughing at the gags and Barunka O'Shaughnessy huffing through Titty Tennis. On to the second disc and the main features are the XXXMas Special (39m00s) that fills in the background to Bo In The USA. Briefly, Avid makes show that was shit, watches The Bear get his own sitcom and goes back home to marry his sister before buying the Hotel Merrion and beginning afresh in the US. Although longer, this is similar to any one of the six episodes on the first disc, even to its sharing many of the same jokes. Did I say 'many'? I meant all of them.
The longest feature on the second disc is a Making Of... (70m33s), which interviews all of those involved in the making of the show, from those who look after the masks, to the producers (John Noel is notable by his absence), to the stars and to Leigh Francis dressed as Keith Lemon, complete with his very big cock. There's a short feature on Lemon next - 1984: The Keith Lemon Years (3m56s) - that spoils its period look (stonewashed denim, a George Michael flick to Lemon's hair) with a pair of blokes wandering about in the background who don't look as though they were born in 1984. Bo Interviews (11m56s) features more Lemon as well as Avid Merrion, Bear and Craig David. Finally, there's a set of Trailers (9m13s), a Gag Reel (13m14s) and a video for the band Cherry Black Stone (3m58s), who feature as the house band for Bo In The USA.