HELEN MOORHOUSE VOICEOVER ARTIST / AUTHOR
It won't have slipped under your radar that the 2012 Olympics kicks off in just over a hundred days. What might have done, however, is the brilliant comedy Twenty Twelve, continuing its current mini-run on BBC 2 this Friday night. The thoughts of yet another mockumentary about the daily grind in an office might leave you wondering where you've seen that done before, but don't let it put you off.
Where The Office revelled in bullying and pranks, cartoon characters and embarrassment, Twenty Twelve is a much classier affair, following the fictional Olympic Deliverance Committee as they take charge of, well, delivering the Olympics. It's one of the more believable comedies out there - if you work, or have worked, in an office, then take a glance and see how long it is before you recognise someone. No one's hiding staplers in jellies here but Twenty Twelve is the sharpest take on office (pardon my phrasing) bullshit that you're likely to see this year.
Everyone's favourite pater familias, Hugh Bonneville's Ian Fletcher, is the man for whom the word 'beleaguered' was coined. Well-intentioned but eternally put-upon, he's the boss who cycles his fold- up bike through London every morning and then sets about another day serving as head of a team of complete idiots. Stoic to the last, he keeps calm and carries on, suffering fools – if not gladly, then stoically. Everything's 'good', or 'fine' or 'great'. And it will be, once he figures out, again, just how to get out of yet another fine mess with everyone's reputations intact.
To sooth his troubled brow, there's Sally – Ian's PA, played by the brilliant and completely underrated Olivia Coleman. Less faithful lapdog and more full-on Grayfriars Bobby, Sally has everything that Ian needs right to hand – pastries, coffee, plasters, unconditional love... Coleman plays Sally with such longing that it makes Tim and Dawn look indifferent to each other – there won't be a Christmas party in Twenty Twelve of course, but that doesn't stop us hoping for the moment that Ian might just decide to throw caution with the wind and allow himself to be smitten reciprocally.
Ostensibly, the ODC are there to organise the greatest sporting event in the world, but in reality, their role seems increasingly confined, like real life, to simply not causing offence.
The ODC staff's job titles are a particular PC joy - Amelia Bullmore's Kay Hope, Head of Sustainability, hates the term 'legacy' so much, that the commission has had to appoint a brand new Head of Legacy to do exactly the same job. Karl Theobald's Head of Infrastructure is little more than a traffic geek, a permanently hungry chimp given absolute power over London's transport systems. The team is completed with Vincent Franklin's consummate northerner and negativity- monger as Head of Contracts.
It's Jessica Hynes' Siobhan Sharpe, however, who is the undisputed big laughs character. Head of Brand through her PR company 'Perfect Curve', she's completely clueless. Her concept of a mindblowing 'audio logo' for the games consisted of a single note played four times in quick succession. She speaks volumes but says absolutely nothing, trading in that 'okay, yeah, right, so....' speak that seems to denote enthusiasm among sterotypical, vapid PR types. Uber trendy clothes, phone fixed on with lobe-glue, she's a subtle, modern day Edina Monsoon but so close to the bone that when she opens her mouth to contradict herself (and believes whatever comes out of it 'tewtally', as she'd say) we can almost hear a crunch.
David Tennant plays the voiceover and guest stars have ranged from Blackadder's Tim McInerney to Smack The Pony's Darren Boyd. Even Seb Coe has played himself.
This isn't laugh-out-loud comedy. It's been described as 'nibbling satire'. It won itself a British Comedy Award in 2011, probably due in part to its perfect timing – in the very first episode the ODC's countdown clock – which counted backwards from the future – had a disastrous launch, on the same day as the real life equivalent flopped in London. It's not necessarily displaying psychic ability to foresee that there might be technical problems with such a piece of equipment, but it's astute observation and that's the beauty of Twenty Twelve.
So far this series, the team have managed to stave off an Algerian Boycott and diffuse a potential religious timebomb caused by the fact that the 'Shared Belief Centre' didn't face Mecca. Tomorrow night, they face a challenge closer to home – pairing the Olympics with the Queen's Jubilee. That'll be the Jubilympics then.
It won't have you rolling round the floor, but it will certainly raise a smile. A final series is scheduled for closer to the start date of the real Games so there's still time to get hooked. If you fancy a half hour of gentle, intelligent, observational comedy that really has nothing to do with sport in the slightest, then set the planner now. Twenty Twelve won't be around forever