The TV debut of web sensation Funny Or Die is more miss than hit
Classic sketches The Landlord and Drunk History
Making the move from online cult status to small screen uncertainty, the Funny Or Die project has inevitably lost some of its initial drive. Web-watchers previously had the voting power to save a sketch or have it dumped (hence the ‘funny or dying’ bit) but now the focus groups have been ditched with old-fashioned methods being implemented for the viewer to express their level of approval. But as yet, there is no impetus to change the name to Laugh or Switch Off.
Episode one of the series is a good example of the ambition shown by the site with Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel and co-creator Will Ferrell all appearing while the gore content (dismemberments, decapitations, penile destruction) taste-challenging skits (the politics of Africa acted out in the playground) and half-decent ideas drawn out too long (Designated Driver and the history of slavery as told by a drunk woman) are all present and correct.
But despite the coliseum-like nature of its net incarnation, you can’t help the nagging feeling that for all its credentials, Funny or Die Presents is now just another sketch show. And with it comes the indelible curse of that genre: some bits are good, other bits are awful. Unfortunately, the opening episode has more than its fair share of calamities and even the better moments come nowhere close to the joys of the first ever sketch, The Landlord, where a bubble-haired Ferrell is abused by Pearl, an aggressive and sadistic toddler demanding her rent.
Sky Atlantic, 23 May, 10pm.