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Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Supernova, BBC2

What to say if you liked it
An astronomical sunburst of a sitcom, fuelling our laughing gear with the bountiful solar energy of wit.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A black hole dirge of a sitcom, which sucks the humour and hilarity from everything near it so that not even a single joke can escape its crushing inanity.

What was good about it?
• Rob Brydon as Paul, the space gas expert who relinquished his dull research post to take a job at a remote observatory in the Australian Outback. Even though he has many traits of the ever-so-polite Englishman (or in this case Welshman) abroad, Brydon easily convinces thanks to his gentle charm which he displayed with the quite distinct Keith Barret.
• The excruciating embarrassment of some of the situations Paul gets caught up in such as hiding beneath Rachel’s desk while she talks intimately with her astronaut boyfriend and also when he kills Pussy the snake, who killed rabbits, thinking it to be dangerous.
• The alien environment of the Outback provides plenty of scope for humour. When Paul arrives he sees a cute rabbit and squats down to stroke it before it is blown away by gruff technician Max as the rabbits are viewed as vermin for their persistent habit of chewing through electrical cables.
• And when Paul obstinately ignores Mike’s advice not to go for a “stroll” in the Outback, he is later brought back to the observatory on a stretcher by four Aboriginals. Paul, however, is still defiant, taking solace in his achievement of reaching the perimeter.
• When Paul decides to give the new telescope lens a quick clean but ends up spraying it with hydrochloric acid and then dropping it when he picks it up. Later, when nobody will own up to removing the lens during the middle of the operation, Pip turns the lights off which show up the luminescent radium on Paul’s hands.
• A quirky diverse supporting cast: brusque Rachel who doesn’t suffer fools, which is a pity given Paul’s adoration of her, and who relishes talking dirty to her boyfriend Chad, an astronaut orbiting the Earth on a space station. Pip, the head scientist who is more a stereotype of a boorish Australian male than Merv Hughes. Mike French, a precocious scientist who bickers incessantly with Jude, a boffin with a predilection for astrology.

What was bad about it?
• The opening scene was ruined if you had even the slightest idea what the plot was. An Australian woman was dressed in austere clothing and was questioning Paul in the manner of a psychoanalyst, and asking him very personal questions such as if he masturbated. But we already presumed it was a job interview and so much of the joke was lost.
• While many of the scrapes Paul got into were funny, they were hardly original. Indeed, at some points it seemed as if The Worst Week Of My Life had been transposed to the Outback, with a neurotic protagonist who gets into inadvertently intimate situations with people whom he shouldn’t (here Rachel, in Worst Week Howard’s mother-in-law to be) as well as the accidental slaying of the local pet.

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