“Taking the Flak”: The Day After – Reviews

1.21 million people tuned in for “Taking the Flak” yesterday, that’s 5.6%. Those of you who live in the UK and missed the first episode can catch up with it on iPlayer. As previously said, Damian was not in the pilot (shouldn’t keep you from watching, though!)

TAKING THE FLAK: “BIGFOOTING”

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“Taking the Flak” has happened upon us, and the reception was mixed – here some reviews:

TV SCOOP
“(…) overall, it’s a nice idea, well performed, and with some neat one-liners. Worth sticking with, in other words. (…)”

TELEGRAPH
“(…) I look forward to the rest of the series enormously. I’ll be wincing as I laugh, though. (…)”

TELEGRAPH
“(…) So what’s wrong with it? Let me count the ways. It’s not remotely funny for a start. (…)”

TIMES
“(…) The jokes and satire went one way and after an hour of in-jokery, you did find yourself wondering: if the BBC is so keen to mock its own news operation, using recognisable presenters and graphics, why should we trust the real thing? (…)”

THE GUARDIAN
“(…) You wonder if the trip to Kenya was worth the shilling, as some of the funniest scenes were back at the BBC where Nigel (Mackenzie Crook) was holding the fort with minimal fortitude (“The editor of the six is literally foaming at the mouth. He bit a picture researcher”). (…)

THE INDEPENDENT
“(…) But while Getting On cares about being true first and hardly seems to care whether you laugh or not, Taking the Flak cares so much that you feel almost embarrassed when you don’t laugh as often as you’d like to. (…)”

LEICESTER MERCURY

“(…) So, in summary. The BBC makes a show, which spoofs its own employees. And then its own listings magazine trashes the results, just in case you were toying with the idea of watching. There’s something truly admirable about all this. Which is more than you can say for the show itself. (…)”

UNREALITY TV
“(…) So, to sum up, despite trying to emulate Drop The Dead Donkey and using the key ingredients of that successful format, where DTDD did in fact justifiably label itself comedy, this should more accurately have been described sort-of-funny-occasionally. (…)”

ON THE BOX
“(…) While there is a good cast and funny dialogue, on the whole it’s not amazing. With fart jokes, exploding dogs and recreations of YouTube videos, the show sometimes veers into silliness but it manages to keep it together. (…)”

How did I like it? Well…

… there are now some people out there who wish the pox on me because they skipped Torchwood to watch Taking the Flak. I hope they’ll eventually forgive me. Taking the Flak has potential; there were some very funny bits and lines, but also quite a few things which were cringworthy, and not in a good way. No doubt some folks find exploding dogs funny, but I’m none of them. And running jokes about the runs stopped being funny when I was 10. Maybe the story had worked better if it hadn’t been walzed out on one hour; as the next episodes will run for 30 minutes, I’m sure there will be improvement.

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My favourite character so far is Grace the receptionist (Lydiah Gitachu), whose banter with her boyfriend Harry was one of the highlights of the episode. She’s as witty as pretty; at one point, Grace informs Harry that he’s pink and skinny and that dating him was like dating a flamingo (not verbatim, but I wish I’d come up with that line on my last date!). Her performance all through the episode was brilliant, and made up for at least 5 of the 879789 mentions of Margaret Hollis’ (Joanna Brookes) IBS.

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Doon Mackichan as stressed producer Jane Thomason is doing a very good job as well; she’s convincing, likeable and gets to snog the cameraman, Jack (Lloyd Owen). He seems to be the only one – locals aside – who really sees through all the smoke and mirrors; his dry, cynic approach to the news business was refreshing and left a positive impression. He played off very well with Martin Jarvis’ veteran BBC correspondent David Bradburn, a self-centered, stingy and vain git. A great character, and without a doubt one taken straight out of real life. He’s hilarious, and while you can’t help wishing to jump through the screen and strangle him, you’d miss him if he wasn’t there.

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Another great character is Joyful Sifuri (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith), who’s dragged in front of the camera as an emergency expert. It’s one of the best scenes, and will make you watch the next report from the frontline with great suspicion! That aside, he’s pretty mild on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt.

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Samantha Cunningham Fleming (Lucy Chalkley) is an “Aid Babe” involved with the charity organisation “Sons without Guns”. Having encountered far too many Samantha Cunningham Flemings in my life, I can attest that Lucy Chalkley nailed that character, spot on. She’s so over the top she has to be real. I don’t know what Samantha’s smoking, but it must be expensive…

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It’s with the boy soldiers that Taking the Flak is getting into a tricky balance act between absurd and tacky. I’m positively surprised the plot managed not to fall off the tightrope; a scene in which one of the boys asks David and Jack to take him back home to his family is cynical yet true and touching. The BBC is not there to help. The BBC is there to report for people who then will help. Eventually. Maybe. Possibly.

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Last but not least, we have Harry Chambers (Bruce Mackinnon), the local stringer who has to fight for his story against BBC heavyweight David Bradburn. I’m not convinced by that character yet; while likeable, Harry is too bland and drowns in the over-the-top characters he’s surrounded with. To stick with Grace’s analogy: he’s too much of a flamingo.

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My main problem with the series so far: I got the feeling that many of the jokes were insider ones, and as a spectator, this made me feel left out. How much of that was intentional or not, I can’t tell. The end of the episode, with David ending up in viral videos all over youtube, was hilarious, and so were some of the captions of the screencaps, but would somebody who doesn’t know the original viral videos and memes that are spoofed find this sequence as much fun as I did? I guess the same is true for the inside jokes. If you’re not in the business, you miss out on them. It remains to be seen how that will affect future episodes.

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