Another view - Carry On College? If only it was as subtle

Stephen Jones

Have you heard the one about the 17-year-old student who never seems to get the sex he craves, so turns to the DIY variety instead? Or how about the twentysomething teacher who can't keep his hands off the sexy sixth formers in his charge, so offers A-grades in return for favours of the fleshly kind?

You're not laughing, are you? You are not alone. It seems that hardly anyone else is either. And that's a shame, because the above scenarios are lifted straight out of a TV programme that goes by the name of a comedy.

The show is called Coming of Age (forget the age bit, just concentrate on the coming - get it? get it?) and I found it on BBC3 the other night when blearily flicking through the channels.

After watching absently for a few minutes I suddenly realised its significance: this was a show set in an FE college. At last, I thought. Why on earth hasn't someone done this before?

If the essence of drama is conflict, then surely FE has it all? Teacher versus students; students versus teacher; student versus student; teacher versus teacher. That's before you even start on the management! And you have to admit that colleges are pretty funny places - at least if you accept that humour works through paradox, irony and incongruity they are.

So by now I was wide awake, all sensors bristling. For 20 minutes I watched, mesmerised. Mesmerised, that is, as the rabbit is mesmerised by the lights of the juggernaut that's about to spread it across three lanes of carriageway. It was awful. Think of a Carry On film minus the Carry On team's renowned subtlety and restraint.

The show is centred around six teenagers taking their A-levels at an Oxfordshire college. In particular there is Ollie, who is getting so much sex from his blousy girlfriend, Jas, that he can't think straight. By way of contrast, DK can't get any; so his "girlfriend" goes by the name of Kleenex!

The episode I stumbled upon was set in a drama lesson, involving a scene featuring two characters by the names of Dick and Fanny (yes, I'm afraid it really did!). Drama teacher: "Chloe, your character hasn't seen Dick since the war broke out. And Matt, your character is desperate . for Fanny."

And it's not just me who finds this embarrassingly unfunny. Here are a few snippets from some of the more supportive reviews: "Imagine the most tawdry, lazy, vapid, vacuous show you've ever seen and multiply by a million." "I sat through Coming of Age with the will to live seeping from my every pore." "One long smear of a knob joke." "This is an absolute pile of shit."

Even the juvenile audience that the series is primarily aimed at don't seem to rate it any higher, if some of the blogs on the subject are anything to go by. "I am a teenage child. I imagine I am the target audience for this. I'd rather get two spoons and stick them in my eyes just so I don't have to see this . ever again."

By now you may be wondering if the writer himself isn't actually a "teenage child". Well he's not 13 - but he isn't 20 either - at least he wasn't when he wrote the show. At 19, Tim Dawson, from Abingdon in Oxfordshire, was one of the youngest writers ever to have a sitcom made for British TV.

Given his comparative youth, Tim can possibly be forgiven for his less than hilarious debut. No doubt he will go on to better (and funnier) things. As for the BBC, - who made the pilot and then commissioned six more for BBC3 - you might think that they would quietly file it away under the "seemed a good idea at the time" tag.

Not a bit of it. They have commissioned a second series of eight episodes, due for screening some time in the autumn. You have been warned!

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Stephen Jones

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