With its new ident and outlook, BBC3 has, over the past few weeks, had a bit of a spring-clean and tidy up. With this also comes a new set of programmes broadcast every Tuesday night which are, in all but name, pilots for potential TV shows of the future. Under the leadership of Danny Cohen, the channel is risking a lot on these new ideas – which is good news, because experimental broadcasting is something greatly missing from TV at the moment. And you never know, maybe the Beeb will discover the next Mighty Boosh or Spaced in amongst this stuff. Next week we have a show called Being Human, about three supernatural flat-mates (a ghost, werewolf and a vampire), which looks intriguing. However, to kick off this season we have the insane Phoo Action. A comic book come to life, Phoo Action comes from the fertile mind of Jamie Hewlett, the brains and artistic talent behind Tank Girl, Gorillaz, and Hewligans Haircut.
Ripped straight from the pages of Get The Freebles (which ran in The Face magazine) the show stars Jaime (daughter of Ray) Winstone as insane teenage anarchist Whitey Action, the wearer of vivid hairstyles and short shorts, and Eddie Shin as Terry Phoo, a Buddhist kung-fu cop who has borrowed the moves and wardrobe of Bruce Lee. Plus, (and here is the coolest thing) Carl Weathers as Whitey Action’s tough-as-nails cop dad Ben Benson! The show also stars the gorgeous Talulah Riley as Lady Eleanor Rigsby and Danny Webb who plays the sinister and power-hungry Lord Rothwell.
So with a pedigree of insanity and a cast of great names, faces and erm… short shorts, what did the show actually offer? Well, a great deal actually. It’s the love-child of 1960s Batman, Green Hornet, Monkey and The Young Ones all mixed up with a pink love spatula!
Set in 2012, a group of Freebles (a set of mutants who control the world’s media) led by Jimmy Freeble, who looks like Zippy from Rainbow but with a basketball for a head, break into Buckingham Palace and assassinate the queen. With the help of his gang that look like droogs from A Clockwork Orange (a luchador-mask-wearing mutated bouncer and a seven-foot purple ape that looks like a refugee from the Banana Splits), he tries to take over the world at the request of a shadowy cabal of bad guys.
All that is stopping them is Phoo and Whitey, equipped with a retro-futuristic car borrowed from Speed Racer, some help from Prince William and Harry and a few nifty numbers on the dance floor… and all compressed into one hour of telly.
With a fantastic eye for design, vivid imagination and a surreal edge the show is only really let down by its budget as at times it looks a little tacky. While this may be done on purpose it does take a little away from the huge amount of creativity thrown on screen. Even though the script and actual plot are pretty wafer-thin, it doesn’t matter, because you’re watching talking basketballs trying to turn members of the royal family into blue-tinted mutated ogres. Madness.
Overall, this is a brave move for BBC3 and a commendable effort to translate a cartoon/comic to the screen. While it maybe doesn’t translate perfectly, Phoo and Whitey are picked right up and dropped from the page onto your telly. With mutants, monsters, anarchy and Carl Weathers there is no other show on TV that could match this for sheer entertainment value.