Air travel is a funny business
Matt Lucas and David Walliams, the stars of the brilliant Little Britain and its American off-shoot Little Britain USA, had quite a task in front of them when it came to following up on their three-season breakout hit. They smartly stuck with what worked before, creating comic vignettes of everyday people, all of whom have quirks that lead to comedic situations. However, unlike in the previous shows, where the characters hailed from all over their respective countries, the cast of Come Fly With Me, played almost entirely by Lucas and Walliams, work in and around a major British airport, mainly for FlyLo, a low-cost airline owned by a greedy, vaguely Middle-Eastern man named Omar.
Most of the six episodes feature the same recurring characters, including Fearghal, the gay steward on the Irish Catholic airline Our Lady Air; Ian, the slightly unintelligent/slightly racist immigration official; and Jackie and Simon, married pilots who are still together despite some adultery on Simon's part. Though there are a few one-off characters, like Corinne, a handicapped handicap-transport worker, and many of the passengers, for the most part, the show follows a few distinct storylines and repetitive set pieces, like the competition to be the new check-in manager between desk agents Melody and Keeley, Tommy the burger flipper's dreams of being a pilot or coffee-kiosk clerk Precious' attempts to avoid work.
Now, while these characters are as interesting as your average Little Britain citizen, and Lucas and Walliams are as funny as ever, the use of the airport as setting limits their effectiveness and no one has the stand-out star quality of previous memorable creations like Daffyd (the only gay in the village), dodgy transvestite Emily Howard or FatFighter Marjorie Dawes. It's easy to say that Vicki Pollard was a one-note character, and she certainly was built around a single catch-phrase, but they could move her from place to place and freshen the concept up.
It's harder to do that when the characters are in established work roles and the show is essentially a workplace comedy. Precious' sabotage effort was amusing the first time, but when she did it a third and fourth time, it was just tired. The same goes for many of the "stars," though at least some of them changed it up a bit, like moving snobbish first-class stewardess Penny to economy class. Part of what holds this series back, versus some of the more anarchic ideas in Little Britain, is an airport doesn't really allow for lunatics to roam free, and as we learned from Lucas and Walliams in the past, insanity is very close to comedy. The airport setting also welcomes a few too many jokes from the old airplane comedy catalog, including bits about bad food, flight delays and pushy security. It would be almost impossible to not cover these topics, but something fresh and new was expected and not delivered.
Another issue, which was broached when the series first aired in the UK, is the matter of racial humor. I am certainly not one who complains about politically incorrect comedy, but it's hard to ignore that minorities do not shine very brightly in this series, be it ineffective passenger liaison Moses, Taaj the Pakistani dunce or the aforementioned Precious, a highly-religious Caribbean woman always looking to get out of working. The less said about the two Japanese schoolgirls stalking Martin Clune the better as well. (Though, admittedly, there aren't many characters, minority or otherwise, who come off looking good in this series.) Perhaps if these characters were funnier, it would be less of an issue, but outside of Taaj, they don't earn mny laughs, which makes the use of blackface (or slant-eyed make-up appliances) even less acceptable than they might be otherwise.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation is as good as you'd expect from a stereo TV presentation, delivering center-balanced audio free of any distortion. It's not likely the show would have benefited from a more exotic mix, especially as a faux documentary, but it still feels like the audio should keep pace with the visuals.
A short auto-run gallery of promotional shots of the characters is followed by a set of Christmas BBC IDs featuring several of the characters interacting with British celebs who will be unknown to many American viewers, like Gary Lineker, Tess Daly and Shane Richie, however fans of Extras and Dr. Who have something to look forward to.
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