4 Reasons To Watch New BBC Three Comedy Famalam Tonight

Photo: Courtesy of BBC
Lycra-clad Eclipse is single-handedly fighting off an armed gang and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it. That is, until the police turn up and arrest him. “I’m a superhero!” he protests. “Look at the cape!” But it’s too late – he’s already being carted off while his assailants are given hot chocolate.
Of course we were never going to get Black Panther-style triumph in BBC3’s Famalam.
Helmed by an all-black cast including Chewing Gum’s John Macmillan and former Vine star Tom Moutchi, it’s a sketch show that plays on ideas of what it is to be black and British today. Such was the social media success of its pilot episode last year – which led to a BAFTA nomination for one of its stars, Samson Kayo – it’s now back for a four-episode run. So why is it worth watching?
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The gags aren’t one-note
A multitude of scenarios keep Famalam fresh, whether that’s Scribbler P – the garage MC who delivers sharp, taboo-busting black history lessons on everything from the royal family to Cheddar Man – or Professor Lofuko, the Croydon witch doctor who offers unexpectedly common sense advice along with his usual ‘healing’. There’s even a Midsomer Murders-meets-'70s blaxploitation cop parody, which sees Kayo play the inept Moses Mountree. The overall effect could be disorienting if it wasn’t for the writing, which is perceptive rather than predictable.
It’s political without feeling heavy
Through those frantically paced scenes, Famalam gently prods and subverts racial stereotypes, whether that’s a black woman who deems a white man’s Tinder activity racist before rejecting an Asian match, or references to Mountree’s perceived sexual prowess. Dipping in and out of different scenes in a subtle, varied fashion, it tackles race and racism with a light, intelligent touch. Among the highlights of episode 1 is the brilliantly deadpan ‘black Jesus’ (Macmillan) who explains his identity to a surprised believer (“I was arrested by a mob of angry government officials ... that shit doesn’t happen to white people”).
It’s genuinely funny
From The Real McCoy to 3 Non-Blondes, The Black British Sketch Show has a rich history. However, Famalam doesn’t just work because it’s a tried and tested formula; rather, the cast’s comic timing and the material come together to make something special. Not everything works: The Luther-a-like cop who takes Snapchat selfies with suspects is weak, as is the character who follows his best friend everywhere, including to the birth of his own child. However, when it works, it really works – it’s worth a watch for its ropey ‘Fantastic Egusi films’ parodies of low-budget Nigerian cinema alone, which include a Fast and Furious rip-off with a wonderfully deadpan accompanying single performed by producer and sometime cast member, Akemnji Ndifornyen. Plus, look out for a brilliantly observed Game of Thrones parody and Gbemisola Ikumelo’s turn as chicken-obsessed schoolboy Fat Sam.
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50% of the cast is female
Bored of sexist comedies where women merely exist to prop up men? Tired of women – especially women of colour – getting rubbish parts? Half of the main Famalam cast (Ikumelo, Roxy Sternberg and Vivienne Acheampong) are female, and they’re great. Ikumelo is brilliant as Funke, who can’t keep her hands off her morning TV co-presenter husband William, while in episode 2 she’s in a Sex and the City-style scenario, deconstructing the 'sassy black best friend' trope. Sternberg is an all-rounder who is particularly menacing as the girlfriend who makes her boyfriend stay over by brandishing a rifle (funnier than it sounds). Elsewhere, Acheampong steals many a scene, including a stonking piss-take of food-based sex games in episode 3. Because who needs strawberries when you’ve got hot sauce?
Famalam is available on BBC3 from Monday 9th April with new episodes each week. Hear what creator Tom Moutchi has to say about the show here...
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