second week of July and I’m strolling across London to BAFTA headquarters for
the screening of Sky’s latest comedy A Touch of Cloth. I say strolling, but in
reality I’m being pelted by vicious and persistent raindrops whilst consulting
a soggy map every two seconds in fear of walking straight past the place. When
I do arrive I go through the big double doors, announce my arrival at the front
desk and head up in the lift to the bar and screening room.
The bar at
BAFTA is a daunting place. The place is already packed and I can only
see the bar itself by averting my eyes from the mass of people and focusing on
a man serving cocktails in the centre of the room. Everyone is sat in deep conversation; the
noise of TV chatter seems to bounce of the walls. I must have looked like a
lost child who had stumbled across the bar on the way to bed. I decide the best
thing to do is to people watch. I’m not sure I’ve people watched in such a high
profile place before. I’m a people watching pro in supermarkets and shopping
centres but here I’m not sure where to start.
I know that
the show’s writer (Charlie Brooker) and stars Surrane Jones and John Hannah are
going to be taking questions from the audience post screening. At that moment I
notice the actor Julian
Rhind–Tutt has sneaked past me and is chatting to people
near the bar. I’m a big fan of Julian’s from his stint on Channel 4’s Green Wing. A few seconds go by and I realize
I’ve been staring at Julian. This isn’t people watching this is virtually
stalking! Once I realize my mistake I try desperately to focus on someone else
in the room. I’m amazed he couldn’t feel my eyes burning into his face but I
think the capacity of the room worked in my favour.
I then spot John Hannah (sporting a beard that we later learn
he has grown in preparation for the second installment of Cloth) and the
bigwigs from Sky. I resist the urge to go forward and chat to any of them, preferring
instead to observe them from a distance in much the same way David Attenborough observes the fascinating
creatures of the planet.
moments later the huge crowds are whisked into the screening room for the
showing of A Touch of Cloth. With all my ranting you may have forgotten that is
what this review is for. I knew quite a bit about the series before taking my
seat on that soggy July evening. I knew it was a spoof on any TV crime drama you’d
care to mention. I knew it starred John Hannah (without beard) and Surrane
Jones as a crime fighting duo and I knew it had been co-written by Charlie
Brooker. I’d also seen a few snippets online that made me quite interested and
heard that Sky was very proud of it. They’re also very proud of Mount Pleasant so
I was cautious.
first thing that struck me about A Touch of Cloth was how much it immediately felt
like a crime drama. The opening scene, where an elderly man is harassed and
laughed at by gang of hooded youths wouldn’t seem out of place in an episode of
Scott & Bailey or Prime Suspect. Brooker will later reveal that he and
co-writer Daniel Maier sat down to every crime drama you
could think of to get the tone of the piece right. Spoofs only work if they are
true to what they’re spoofing and Cloth does it masterfully.
Jack Cloth is your stereotypical
tortured soul. His wife has died, he’s hit the bottle and looking disheveled
when we meet him for the first time. Surrane Jones plays police partner Anne
Oldman. A joke that for me got old quickly. “I’m Anne Oldman”. Get it? The
audience and I howl with laughter the first time the joke is played but I find
myself less enamored with the joke as it continues to pop up. The fantastic
title sequence which features Cloth from different angles did make me laugh and
received an immediate warm reception from those around me. The attention to
detail here can’t be faulted. Hannah and Jones play their parts with such
seriousness and conviction you sometimes forget this is a spoof. There’s no
doubting that the humour here is daft, immature and silly but it’s perfect! Julian Rhind–Tutt is wonderful as Cloth’s mysterious boss. Every
sentence is finished with so many Cloth puns it’s a wonder Brooker and Maier
have any left to shoehorn into the script for Cloth 2 and 3!
interesting thing about A Touch of Cloth was I found myself engrossed in the
actual mystery element of the plot. Perhaps I’ve been groomed by too many crime
series but I was fascinated by whodunit. The gag level in this is high. Every
aspect of the crime genre is picked apart and lovingly mocked. There’s a
disturbing scene in a mortuary that got creepier by the second and a chase
scene that went on a bit too long for my taste. We later learn that creepy mortuary scene was taken from equally long winded and maudlin scene from Danish crime series The Killing. If I were to pick fault I must honest and tell you I soon grew tiered of
the Anne Oldman jokes and of the continual plays on the word “cloth” At points
the silliness became exhausting and I started to fidget in my seat. I
remembered at this point why I stopped going to the cinema. If you get bored,
need the loo or just fancy a stretch of the legs you can’t pause what you’re
watching. Sky has decided to split the two hour comedy into two parts which,
having seen it is a really smart move. After an hour with Cloth you know what
to expect and I found it dragged in the middle. Don’t get me wrong I was still
laughing, still interested in the plot and still enjoying the straight laced Hannah and Jones but I
think splitting into two halves is a good move.
the humour is immature but even in its slower moments I found impossible to dislike Cloth. It’s
mickey taking at its finest. Brooker and Maier aren’t mocking their subject
they are affectionately poking fun at it. There are scenes here that seem
plucked straight out of a real crime series. In the Q&A Brooker reveals how
similar the genres are. They always have shouty interview scenes or lead
characters with messy and ridiculous personal lives. As a viewer you could tell
Brooker and Maier know the genre inside out.
As the whodunit draws to a
close the payoff is exciting and unexpected. Even then the joke rate doesn’t diminish.
There are more gags here than in an entire series of recent BBC comedies. The
point of this review isn’t to spoil the show for you but whet your appetites. A
Touch of Cloth is brilliant and a masterclass in spoofing. There is so much I
could tell you but I think it’s fairer to have you discover it on your own. Sky
has already announced Cloth 2 and 3 and I for one can’t wait!