In 10 Words or Less
A fake look at the making of the London Olympics
Likes: The Office, Britcoms
Dislikes: British politics
Hates: Idiots in charge
It's kind of amazing that an event as big as the Olympics is the work of an organization of people. Most anyone knows, if you get more than one or two people together to work on a project, its chances of failing rise exponentially, so if you multiply that by the sheer size and complexity of the Olympic Games, its a miracle they happen at all, no less every four years. Add in the likelihood that a good percentage of the people involved will be at least slightly incompetent, and you arrive at the concept of Twenty Twelve, a mockumentary BBC series in the vein of The Office, which aired in advance of the actual Games.
Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey) is the man in charge of the Deliverance Commission (which has a very different first-meaning in America), which is responsible for organizing the games, including the buildings, the promotion and all the infrastructure. It's a mostly thankless, short-term job for those involved, as they are mostly ineffective, which doesn't help when the requirements are constantly changing, challenges constantly pop up in front of them and they have trouble just communicating, so actually working together is nearly impossible. Yet, somehow, the entire enterprise keeps rumbling forward, despite their best unintended attempts to self-sabotage.
The biggest obstacle to success might be the group's PR leader, Siobhan Sharpe, whose firm, Perfect Curve, is in charge of the Olympics' branding. As someone who has worked in, around and with public relations professionals for years, its disturbingly depressing to see how Jessica Hynes (Spaced) has hit the nail on its unfortunate head with this portrayal of a constantly hyper PR flack who listens to no one, talks in buzzwords and generally thinks she knows more than everyone, though it's most likely the complete opposite. If you've worked in the industry, her terrible team and her non-stop Vicki Pollard-like fits and starts of meaningless language is a bit too close to home for it to be as funny as it should be, but for everyone else, it's a manic bit of entertaining ridiculousness.
The rest of the team is a mix of the self-important (sustainability head Kay (Amelia Bullmore)) the overworked (infrastructure head Graham (Karl Theobald)) and the angry (contracts guy Nick (Vincent Franklin)). As things move forward over the two seasons, we get to meet more of the people involved, including two of Ian's assistants, the sweet and quiet Sally (Olivia Colman) and the talkative, yet helpful Daniel (Samuel Barnett), as well as Kay's nemesis, Legacy chief Fi (Morven Christie). As they face down problem after problem, including a disastrous bus trip with the Rio 2016 delegation, a religious conflict over the Shared Beliefs center and an abortive sexual-health campaign, the cracks in the foundation grow and grow, and through sit-down interviews and the ever-present camera, we see just how perilous planning an Olympics can be. The series has a lot of black comedy embedded in the group's constant failures, especially in Kay's awful home life, which is played for laughs. It's not a laugh-out-loud series (a fact that's obvious from the subtle joke of having narrator David Tennant repeat half the dialogue you've just heard) but one sporting more of a clever, well-plotted sense of humor.
Though on the surface this series is the story of the Olympics and the team putting them together, it's really about Ian. As the man in charge of this stumbling team, he is under the most pressure, and his personal life is affected by it all as well, which leaves him coming off as very much a loveable loser and easy to side with. That there's a simmering relationship developing with the protective Sally, who mouses around in the background helping her boss and getting more and more involved in his life, makes Ian's storyline all the more interesting, to the point where when things change at the beginning of the second season, it really shifts the tone of the show, and everything has a very different feel. What's nice though is, the looming presence of the Olympic Games gives the show a natural expiration date, so when it all wraps up, it feels very neat and clean, even if there's no sure ending to the story.
Inside a standard keepcase with a tray, you get all 13 episodes (six in season one, seven in the second) on two discs, with fun, anamorphic-widescreen menus offering options to play all the shows, select an episode, adjust the set-up and check out the extras (on disc one.) There are no audio options, though subtitles are available in English.
The anamorphic widescreen transfers on these DVDs look quite nice, delivering a documentary-appropriate image that features well-saturated color, a decent level of fine detail and good black levels. Everything has that "natural" look, so it's not the sharpest-looking video, but it fits the show. There are no concerns about compression artifacts thoughout.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, again, seems fine for a documentary presentation, but it's not going to provide a lot of excitement with its front-and-center presentation. It's not like the action requires a lot of energy, as it's mostly talking, with some occasional music. When sound is important (there are several sound-focused gags) everything is nice and clear, without any distortion.
The only extras arrive in the form of seven short interviews (most shorter than two minutes) with most of the cast and executive producer Jon Plowman. Shot on the set, they don't offer a great deal of insight, focusing mainly on aspects of the characters they play, while Plowman offers a bit of an overview of the production. Of the bunch, Bonneville is easily the most interesting. There's so little to these, that one bit of footage is actually used in two separate interviews.
The Bottom Line
Arriving on DVD so long after the 2012 Olympics have left the consciousness of the general public is definitely a handicap for this series, as interest in the show would have been higher when there was still a possibility for the screw-ups shown to actually happen. Even so, the misadventures of the Deliverance Commission remain very funny, even if some of the gags are very U.K.-centric. The DVD set looks and sounds quite nice, and tosses in a few minor extras for those who enjoy the show. Give it a look if you enjoy shows like The Office and other sitcoms about incompetent workplaces.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.