Once again, we’re flies on the wall of BBC Broadcasting House somewhere in central London, and the Way Ahead group are discussing the crucial issues affecting the corporation as it approaches the 2016 charter renewal.
“The fact is, this is about us identifying what we do best and finding more ways of doing less of it better,” Director of Better Anna Rampton (Sarah Parish) intones to widespread agreement, while David Tennant’s narrator puffs up the BBC’s exciting new “opportunity to question everything it does, and ask the question whether there’s any point to any of it at all any more.”
Yes, we’re back in the whirling, blue-sky doublespeak world of W1A, John Morton’s sitcom about BBC executives weathering the storms of increasingly absurd crises that follows on from smash-hit (and famously prophetic) Olympic-themed series Twenty Twelve.
And while there don’t appear to be too many unintentional predictions in the two new W1A episodes shown to press (which deal with a cross-dressing football pundit too dull for Match of the Day, a visit from a senior civil servant and general downsizing as the corporation tries to save money), it can only be a matter of time before Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) and his team inadvertently reflect a real-life scandal. For one, the new “BBC Me” app touted by Jessica Hynes’ Siobhan Sharpe can’t help but be compared with BBC3’s online launch…
Still, it’s this eerie sense of accuracy that’s always made W1A such a joy to watch, from the pitch-perfect recreations of any corporate meeting (meaningless platitudes zipping around the table like a ping-pong ball) to the incredibly specific public tweetstorms our heroes find themselves in.
This year, it all feels more spot on than ever.
The cast of W1A series three
But there are also new joys in this third series to keep things fresh, with the incompetent PRs of Perfect Curve on the back foot for the first time when they’re taken over by an aggressively competent team of outsiders. Meanwhile, permanently-underfoot assistant Will (Hugh Skinner) is pulled into the cogs of the programme-making machine when his “On Your Bike” pitch begins to make its way up the ladder. Oh, and there are still plenty of fun guest stars playing against their public personas, including a very game Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer in the first episode.
Plus, there appear to be two separate love triangles to enjoy this year as Will’s unrequited love for Izzy (Ophelia Lovibond) continues and Ian finds himself the subject of unexpected romantic advances, all of which serve to add a little heart to the quick-fire one-liners – even if none of it quite compares to the pathos of Olivia Coleman’s doomed Sally in Twenty Twelve.
All in all, then, this is a continually amusing return for W1A, and if it does turn out to be the very last series as writer John Morton has suggested, it has the makings of a good send-off for a series that won’t outstay its welcome.
In other words, it’s the BBC finding better ways of doing more of what they do best by doing less. Very strong.