Did we like it?
The first 20 minutes was some of the worst, most incompetent TV we have ever seen. But soon the invention and silliness makes you see it for what it really is – a counter-culture comic in one fluid motion without the picture frames and speech bubbles. And once you adapted to this philosophy, it was actually pretty good.
What was good about it?
• Phoo Action’s closest kin on the box is The Mighty Boosh, which similarly takes time to acclimatise to. And much of Boosh’s playful absurdities are apparent, and welcome, here.
• Set in 2012 in a Britain with all the substance sucked out of it, the Queen is assassinated by a mutant (we’ve no idea where they came from or what caused the mutations) called Jimmy Freebie, who has a basketball for a head and huge hands with over-sized fingers, and his two accomplices, one who looks like the offspring of a snooker ball and a goblin and another who resembles one of those hulking gorillas in the Gorillaz videos devised by Jamie Hewlett, who, perhaps not surprisingly, created the comic on which this was based.
• You never are quite comfortable with the notion of a villain with a basketball for a head, which keeps you perplexed and interested in what the hell is going on.
• Don’t expect any depth to any of the characters. While some comics have the space and scope to create believable three-dimensional people, Phoo Action relies on emaciated grotesques that perfectly suit the snappy plots and ridiculous dystopias in which they are set. Jamie Winstone as Whitey Action and Eddie Shin as Terry Phoo play their roles with the right dose of skin-thin superficiality; they never stop to ponder the meaning of life and all their conversations are about saving kidnapped princes William and Harry or arguing over their trivial views on culture.
• The BBC has been turned into a saccharine pus pile of gloopy gossip and snivelling celebrity; which makes it more dogged in the pursuit of real news than the current station that deludes itself that the marriage of Julia Roberts is important or that the reformation of the Spice Girls is as much a clarion call for feminism as Emily Davison being trampled by the King’s horse in the Epsom Derby
• Some of the stories on the news ticker included: “Meaningless news increases by 93%”; “Why don’t you switch off your television set and go and do something less boring instead”; and the Pixies’ Monkey Gone To Heaven reference of, “Statue of Liberty found intact under ten million pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey”.
• As Whitey tries to thwart Jimmy Freebies nefarious plot to be crowned King of England with a dart tranquiliser gun, the annoying news reader does a running commentary on the action, only for Whitey to dart him too when he gets too annoying.
• Whitey turning off Phoo’s car stereo when Girls Aloud came on, “Pop music makes me want to vomit!”
• The Buddha’s loincloth, a mystical artefact brought by Phoo to Britain from his Hong Kong temple that can only be worn by the chosen one. Whitey later turns out to be that figure heralded in the legend, but on her they warp into a pair of hotpants from which she can pull anything in her imagination from a police siren to a golden chocolate egg.
• The fight scenes resemble the TV version of Batman; plenty of “POW”s and the like but sadly without the garish subtitles. In the final showdown, Whitey pulls a couple of clipboard clips from the Buddha’s hotpants and fixes them to the nipples of her assailant.
What was bad about it?
• As it took a while to adjust to the bizarre premise and comic nature of Phoo Action, the start was blighted by what seemed at the time to be stupid plotting, ridiculous caricatures who don’t beguile or intrigue but revolt with the force of minty sick.
• And this may be the major flaw, as if we hadn’t been dutifully reviewing Phoo Action we may well have given up long before its rapid improvement later on. And as a general warning anyone who finds The Mighty Boosh as funny as torturing puppies should probably stay away, too.