I am not entirely sure why I was asked to pass judgment on Sky’s
new ’genre-crossing science fiction road comedy’, The Strangerers. The
barely attained physics O-level? The fact that I knew Dune was more than
an expensive perfume?
Perhaps it was because of the work we did with Lucasfilm, marketing Star
Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace?
I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in science fiction programming, so what
follows is my reaction as a punter. The first episode of The Strangerers
was stranger than I had expected. I got the idea - botched alien
invasion of earth, two dumb cadets adapting to human behaviour and a
host of opportunities for ensuing gags and spoofs.
But I began to lose it a bit when a babe in a skin-tight blue PVC suit
got involved (perhaps this is just a reflection of my age). Suffice to
say that the X-Files meets Mork and Mindy with a bit of A Clockwork
Orange thrown in is one way of describing it.
But will it work? We have a tradition of Brit-based sci-fi comedy - Red
Dwarf, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - and it is laudable that
Sky should back this as its first original comedy series.
And I can see what it is aiming at: a Rob Grant production that could
become a cult staple attracting more of the young, upmarket audience
that Channel 4 keeps claiming as its own and a language that can enter
the youth club as easily as the nightclub would be a valuable addition
to Sky One. But for me, it just misses the mark.
It seemed too contrived, too cold, too slow and a bit too narrow to be a
big hit. Perhaps the plot will develop and the gags will get better, but
I don’t think it will ever quite break away from the ’I’ve seen that
before’ syndrome with slicker products such as Third Rock From the Sun
and Earth Girls Are Easy around.
Comedy has moved on from this stuff with The Fast Show and Trigger Happy
TV. Somehow The Strangerers didn’t have enough zip.
But what do I know? I grew up wanting to be Mork from Ork. Perhaps there
are people out there who want to be space cadets just like Niven and
Ivan Pollard is a founding partner of Unity.
Channel Sky One
Broadcast time 9pm
Audience viewing figures 617,000 (unofficial overnight figures)
Advertisers in first break include Toyota Celica, Bounty Kitchen Roll,
Scoot, Source, BT, Fairy Liquid