New British Comedy is No Fly-by-Night

by Shannon Baldo

“God gave me a mission. He come to me, and he say, ‘Omar, I have chosen you to bring low-cost travel to flights within Europe and some selected routes across the Atlantic.’ And I said to him, ‘I will not let you down, Mr. God.’ ”

Thus begins the first series of the brand-new British comedy “Come Fly With Me,” a mockumentary following life in a busy London airport. With sparkling writing, flawless acting and more than enough subject matter to fill a comedy script, “Come Fly With Me” brings an almost Monty Python-esque sense of humor to the now popular parodic format, and because of this it has become one of my favorite comedic series of the millennium.

“Come Fly With Me” is the brainchild of British comedians David Walliams and Matt Lucas, best known for their successful collaborative production “Little Britain.” In their previous work, as in this, the pair combines its formidable comedic gifts and its wry, quirky sense of humor to create a vibrant parody of British documentaries and British life. With a wide cast of characters exhibiting nearly every comedic flaw of daily life, there’s a central truth to the show which renders even its most outrageous parodies utterly hilarious.

Yet what makes this show truly spectacular is that Walliams and Lucas play nearly every character. Harking back to traditional sketch comedies, each of the show’s 20 major characters is played by these two men, and, through both talented makeup and their phenomenal comedic acting, they never fail to pull it off.

Take, for instance, Melody Baines (Walliams) and Keeley St. Clair (Lucas), two members of the check-in staff for the series’s low-budget airline, FlyLo. Two attractive twentysomething girls, Melody and Keeley appear in the series’s first episode as best friends; however, when the position of check-in manager becomes available, they quickly begin taking every opportunity to insult each other.

Or try Simon (Lucas) and Jackie Trent (Walliams), Britain’s first husband-and-wife pilot team. Simon had himself been a pilot for years until he had a one-night affair with a stewardess, and subsequently his wife Jackie joined him in the cockpit to keep tabs on him. Between Simon’s resignation and Jackie’s violent indignation, the awkward mixture of the professional and the personal that infects every aspect of their lives culminates in such situations as Jackie flirting with a man at flight control while landing the plane and Simon being forced to take his mother-in-law with him on a solo flight to Las Vegas.

Or even take Ian Foot (Walliams), one of the most controversial characters in the show. The airport’s chief immigration officer, Foot defines his job as keeping out anyone who should not be in Britain — which translates to anyone not white and English. Because of his constant reliance on racial stereotypes, Foot effectively makes a fool of himself in every episode, from accusing a woman of lying about the existence of “Liberia” to asking the Polish ambassador to England if he will join his British countrymen in stripping for a living.

Yet there’s also Walliams’ Omar Baba, the owner of FlyLo who tries to improve his low-cost airlines through charging for the use of life jackets, installing upright flat beds and changing a toilet into a pay-as-you-go sex stall; Lucas’ Taaj Manzoor, one of the airport’s roving ground crew members who tries to entice women to his cart by yelling that it’s called the “pussywagon”; Lucas’ Tommy Reid, a rather dull Scottish boy who begins working at the airport Happy Burger to get an advantage in his quest to become a pilot; and Walliams’ Moses Beacon, a passenger liaison officer who volunteers to fly ill children abroad for free but ends up taking the tickets for his own so as not to bother the children.

Of course, as the product of two decidedly British comedians whose history involves parodying even the most essential of British traditions, there is something about “Come Fly With Me” which may not appeal to the mass American audience. However, for anyone familiar with British humor or even those who admire the comedic skill involved in adopting 10 completely different characters, “Come Fly With Me” is definitely worth a watch.


One Response to New British Comedy is No Fly-by-Night

  1. Geri says:

    I can’t believe you list this as one of your top shows of the millennium. It’s offensive and, though it had its moments, those moments were few and far between.

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