W1A is a brilliantly observed comedy crafted for today’s comedy watchers. Targeting humdrum professionals caught in the monotony of a PC, over-planned land of careers, W1A steeps its insanity in normality. Week-by-week, it throws its poor battered characters into slightly insane yet deeply relatable situations that make you wince with awkwardness. It’s not usually laugh out loud, but it is hilarious.
If you’re not familiar with its concept, W1A follows the ins and outs of life working at the BBC’s central headquarters, Broadcasting House, and the extremely haphazard nature of its employees. Led by Hugh Bonneville’s relatively normal ‘Head of Values’ Ian Fletcher (a character that returned from Olympic-themed sister show Twenty Twelve), his troublesome colleagues all hold equally bizarre and satirical job titles, varying from ‘Head of Generic Comedy and Drama’ to ‘Director of Better’. It’s a mirror of the tiresome and flimsy nature of large-scale corporations, where they repeat things like “Very Gooood”, “The fact here is that we need to be better”, and (most annoyingly) “So that’s all good then”. Spoiler: it usually isn’t.
Though the series’ have had criminally short runs up to this point (Series 1 is four episodes, and Series 2 totals five), we’ve encountered some brilliantly thought up, completely crazy scenarios. They range from the BBC’s new flagship show “Britain’s Tastiest Village”, presented by Clare Balding/Carol Vorderman/Alan Titchmarsh/none of them; the entire cast getting lost in ‘Old Broadcasting House’ during an official visit by Prince Charles; and disastrous PR guru Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes) reimagining BBC Wimbledon as ‘Winbledon’, with Graham Norton talking to players’ girlfriends in the box. Both genius and utter bullshit in the same second, W1A‘s trademark humour comes from being just that little bit too close to the truth. Coupled with David Tennant’s tongue-in-cheek narration, W1A is witty and clever till its last breath; or rather, when the credits cut abruptly over the startled face of one of its cast.
W1A has had a little break from our screens – it last aired in May 2015, so it’ll be a two-year break when it finally returns this summer. Suspicions were rife that it was pushed from the schedules by the BBC themselves, not wanting to draw attention to the more bizarre parts of their day-to-day running during the Charter renewal last year. Considering how much controversy it caused anyway, that was probably a good move; although ‘senior BBC sources’ have since insisted its break was because of the cast’s busy schedules. I’ll let you decide whether that statement was cooked up in one of Ian’s ‘Way Ahead’ meetings.
To reward our dry spell, W1A is back for a slightly longer six-part series, which has just started filming – you can see the first promo picture above. All the old faces are back, from the steely ‘Head of Better’ Anna Rampton (Sarah Parish), to the loveable yet annoying PA Will (Hugh Skinner). The synopsis for Series 3 understandably nods to the Charter Renewal and its fallout, with Broadcasting House responding to a new BBC mission statement of doing ‘More of Less’. Ah, it’s good to have you back.
In a (fake) media statement, Anna Rampton describes the new mission statement as “Putting what we do best front and centre and about identifying better ways of doing less of it more.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Basically, the BBC execs will be running around, second-guessing what they actually should do, creating all kinds of hilarious mishaps. As Siobhan once famously quipped: “Let’s nail this puppy to the floor, guys!”. Well, quite.
It’s hard to anticipate a new series of W1A as you would do pretty much any other show, because the best thing it can do is stay exactly the same. Move at a crawlingly slow pace plot-wise, throw some fun celebrity cameos in every now and again, and put in lots and lots of Jessica Hynes and her dysfunctional PR gang. Do that, and we’ll be all good.
W1A returns to BBC One later this year.