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Review: E4's The Midnight Beast
E4's The Midnight Beast - Image. Channel 4
E4 sitcom featuring online comedy phenomenon The Midnight Beast as wannabe musicians struggling to make it.
Sloman as The Midnight Beast's weird neighbour. Once you realise he's played by Simon Farnaby from CBBC's Horrible Histories, your mind will explode.
A joke about blinking, followed by everyone doing loads and loads of blinking. I didn't really get it, but I tried it at home and scared my housemate.
Not much has made the transition from viral phenomenon to television, with the exception of 'citizen journalism' or c**p late night countdown videos full of cats (usually presented by Alex Zane).
Until The Midnight Beast, that is. Comprising Stefan Abingdon, Dru Wakely and Ashley Horne - they're best known for their spot-on YouTube musical parodies of Kesha's Tic Toc and Katy Perry's ET featuring Kanye West.
"Not much has made the transition from viral phenomenon to television"
The Midnight Beast stand out because they have an odd boyish charm about them, but they also create songs with lyrics that are dirty or utterly bizarre (a trailer for the show included a segment where they sang about peppermint tea, drinking through a straw and having no bed-time plans).
When I first heard about this E4 series, a light bulb went off in my head: a perfect fit, I thought. It makes sense! It appeals to the traditional E4 audience! It's quirky and original and something rather different!
Then my mind started racing: why hasn't E4, or any other channel for that matter, taken something wildly popular off the internet and put it onto television before?
After all in this case, we're only talking two minutes of musical brilliance uploaded to YouTube every two months being expanded into a 23-minute episode over a period of six straight weeks... Oh my gosh! It's going to tank, isn't it? That was where my head was at right up to the premiere.
The Midnight Beast hit their stride
The promotional stunts didn't exactly lead me to think otherwise. Last week, the band performed on E4 in front of a live studio audience and at the end of every verse, they took off a piece of clothing.
When they were down to rugby socks covering their privates, said rugby socks were swinging across the dance-floor like a drunk pendulum while girls in the crowd went wild. It was uncomfortable to watch. All week I swore we'd be disappointed and then pretend E4's The Midnight Beast had never happened in the first place. But I was wrong.
It turned out to be one of the strongest, most original shows I have seen in a long time.
To make The Midnight Beast compatible for television, it's been transformed into a sitcom with strategically placed songs - think Glee. But much funnier. And with better tunes. I'm happy to report that the songs on TV are all as entertaining and sharp as they were online.
"Aside from the music, the writing for the rest of the sitcom is super-sharp"
Admittedly, these little ditties won't be everyone's cup of tea, but the theme of the songs ranged from being beaten up by a shark to exaggerating the supposed pulling credentials of the band (cue lyrics such as: "If you're lucky, you can f**k me, in my two-bedroom flat in Putney").
Aside from the music, the writing for the rest of the sitcom is super-sharp; barely any wasted dialogue at all. Take this exchange between the band and their creepy yet somewhat endearing neighbour Sloman (played by Simon Farnaby, best known for CBBC's Horrible Histories):
Sloman: "Which one of you is 'stiff'?"
Dru: "Who needs to know?"
Sloman: "Your laptop is showing up on our Wi-Fi network."
Stefan: "Is yours the one that's called 'Die Wife Die'?
Sloman: "And yet still she lives."
In addition, other memorable sequences included the hopeless attempts of Ashley to get a reduction in the cost of a pizza delivery (first by giving their location as in a river before hopelessly performing a striptease) and Stefan's observation about Dru being so far drunk, he's practically sober again, followed by a smashed Dru punching what he thought was a representative of a record label with a bottle of champagne.
These bits worked so brilliantly on screen that after several rewinds, I was still unable to keep a straight face. What's more, it didn't feel in any way forced, or out of its depth.
Admittedly, I have a few nagging reservations. I can't help but wonder if The Midnight Beast will still be as good as the series progresses. Will Sloman's character, or the band's slightly drugged up and equally terrible manager Chevy (played by Ryan Pope), start to get tired?
Remember how we all liked Frank during the first series of Shameless? Now he gets on our wick.
Moreover, in just 20 minutes we saw the guys do everything from eating each other's fingernails to jumping around in cardboard boxes like a cut-price Beastie Boys; will it all start to get a little bit same-y after a while?
Overall though, it's been age since I've been more impressed by a debut show. In fact, let me just make a bold statement, one that might just haunt me in years to come if I get it wrong: this could be the next Inbetweeners. Or even The IT Crowd, Green Wing and Black Books. There. I've said it.
- Rating: The Midnight Beast on TV is well worth your time
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