One And Done: Above Their Station

Above Their Station indexI’m extremely fond of Rhys Thomas, the man behind Brian Pern, Down The Line, Bellamy’s People, A Year In The Life Of Year and the recent The Kemps: All True, but this is a rare example of a show that he’s written that I’m not madly in love with. It’s still pretty funny in places, and quite an absurd and silly thing at times, but there’s a couple of elements which don’t really work well.

The set up is that Perry (Thomas), Kelly (Ashley Madekwe) and Len (Luke Gell) are all police community support officers but they aren’t respected by the public or proper police officers, being roundly mocked by all. Early on this involves a bunch of kids hanging them by their feet off of the edge of a bridge, and then dropping them in to the water, and also Police Constable Preston (Andrew Brooke) making Len’s life hell by making him think that he killed a swan when he fell in to the water.

Meanwhile back at the station it’s the last day of work for support officer Chester Thompson (Dudley Sutton) and at the same time a bunch of things have been going missing from the station, but no one puts two and two together and works out that he’s the guilty party because no one’s that smart in the show, proper police officer or not, with Kelly presuming it’s the station’s cleaner Olga (Ruth Connell) who is responsible for the various thefts.

It’s this last part which is the most disagreeable element as Kelly comes across as slightly racist as she presumes Olga’s guilty because “She looks a bit funny” and later shouts at her “Give me back my phone you cock eyed pig”. Also on the “Hmm, that made me wince a bit” front is some of the dialogue Dudley Sutton is given as he complains how the lack of respect makes his “arse bleed”, and later offers a desperate for the toilet Len his colostomy bag saying “Compadre, top this up”. It’s not in any way offensive, just a bit crass, and Thomas is normally a lot better than this, and that’s also the case with Denis Lawson’s role as the Police Chief, Lawson’s normally a great actor but he camps it up a bit too much.

It’s a shame it contains such moments as elsewhere it’s pretty funny, some of the dialogue is weirdly amusing, like how Perry threatens the kids with the line “I’m Bangkok dangerous, I’m a crazy toad” and there’s a strong gag about Perry thinking the missing items are due to a “Polterghost” as the station was built “on an old Indian Burial Ground”, only to be corrected by Kelly as it was in fact just an old Indian restaurant. Simon Day also has a delightful role as a criminal locked up with Len, where he looks at first like he’s a Hannibal Lecter-esque figure but was in fact just arrested for speeding while on his way to a fancy dress party, and he’s actually an erudite and very charming doctor.

Thomas regular Tony Way also has a small but very funny cameo as “Techno Benson”, the station’s forensic expert and all round scientist type who’s built a stun gun that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Doctor Who. The whole plotline where Len thinks he’s going to prison for swan murder is mostly funny too (bar some rather lazy gags about what he thinks will happen to him if sent down) and Perry’s cake with a toffee hammer inside of it, and a poster of Adrian Chiles to cover up the hole he’ll be digging, is a nice little joke, while Preston suggesting that Len should meet the family of the victim, before presenting him with “Shirley and Brian the swan’s parents” made me laugh out loud.

In the end Perry and Kelly discover that Preston’s been playing a trick on Len and that the swan’s fine and so they get revenge, but it goes a bit too far as they get him not only to kiss Len (who’s supposedly dying after taking an overdose), but also suggest Preston cups his balls, which he then does. Even in a show as over the top as this it’s still sexual assault that they’re making fun out of and so I struggled with the scene, but bar that it’s a decent enough ending and one which has a fun pay off as Preston’s attempts at saving Len are broadcast across the internet for everyone to see, and Olga sort of gets a reward after being falsely accused.

It’s a lot broader than Thomas’s work is normally is, almost pantomime-esque at times, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely disappointing that there’s a couple of really quite weak jokes and ideas within the episode. If Thomas had concentrated on the absurder and sillier aspects it could have been a show which I’d loved to have seen more of, but in this form alas I’m in no way upset that further episodes weren’t commissioned.

★★3/4

Alex Finch.
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You can watch Above Their Station on Thomas’s Vimeo Channel here.

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