Well, here’s a shocker! The critics didn’t much enjoy Ben Elton’s new sitcom The Wright Way, which premiered last night on BBC1. And by “didn’t much enjoy”, I mean they eviscerated it.
From the nationals to thisisstaffordshire.co.uk, it seems there wasn’t a single TV pundit out there with a good word to say about the latest offering from the man who brought We Will Rock You into the world.
Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph dismissed it on Twitter as a sitcom that “makes Amanda Holden’s Big Top look like Seinfeld”, while The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage said it “proves that Ben Elton is no longer remotely funny”. The other reviews were no kinder…
The Guardian (John Crace): “Lame doesn’t begin to describe this car-crash of a comedy that involved actors standing around awkwardly doing their best at damage limitation. There was no point in them even trying to make the script convincing… I’ve had more laughs reading a Richard Littlejohn column.”
Time Out (Gabriel Tate): “Maybe it’s too easy to knock Ben Elton these days but God, this is diabolical… Fortunately, there’s a clap-happy studio audience to disguise the absence of a single good joke – wordplay around ‘erection’ and ‘knob’ is about as creative as it gets.”
The Daily Telegraph (Jake Wallis-Simons): “If, on a progressive scriptwriting course somewhere, a tutor were to set an exercise demanding that students produce a sitcom script devoid of any trace of originality – or indeed any trace of genuine comedy – this would pass with flying colours. Well done, Ben Elton!”
Metro (Keith Watson): “Who knew [Ben Elton] would end up writing a sitcom that makes Mrs Brown’s Boys look like cutting-edge satire? The Wright Way is Elton ranting about the things that really bug him these days – dishwashers, male grooming, taps – grumpy old man-style. But the sad fact is that it takes aim at ridiculously easy targets and misses them by a country mile.”
The Independent (Tom Sutcliffe): “[The Wright Way] is an odd, lurching affair, sometimes funny but occasionally so groan-inducing that you want to gather a mob with torches and pitchforks… Older viewers will be able to detect the comic DNA of Elton’s own The Thin Blue Line and echoes too of The Brittas Empire, though neither comparison really favours The Wright Way, which is overly dependent on laborious double entendres.”
The Arts Desk (Veronica Lee): “David Haig is a hugely accomplished actor, but my commiserations to him and the rest of the cast, shouting all their lines as if to drown out their awfulness. I hope they were well paid for this execrable mess.”
This is Staffordshire (The Sentinel): “In episode one, Gerald’s day gets off to a bad start. Living with daughter Susan is taking its toll. Her partner Victoria is a bathroom hogger and Gerald is forced to make use of the facilities at work which have the push-button taps that he hates. You’d be right in hoping it gets a little funnier.”
If you’re still in any doubt, read Radio Times magazine critic David Butcher’s scathing appraisal of the show here and my own thoughts about the show being “so bad it’s good” here.
In all fairness, though, we must point out that these reviews didn’t put Britain off: 2.3 million viewers watched The Wright Way on BBC1 and BBC1 HD. Whether they were merely sampling it to see how bad it really was will be clearer when we get next week’s figures… head to iPlayer if you want to experience it yourself.