BBC Video // 2011 // 377 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // February 11th, 2013
"For Ian, the Aquatic Center has suddenly gone from being the week's good news story to being a mass grave -- which isn't what he wanted."
Remember the London 2012 Summer Olympics? The BBC sure hopes so, because the entire run of its fake documentary series Twenty Twelve -- conceived by People Like Us creator John Morton to take advantage of the ramp up to the 2012 games -- is finally out on DVD in the States.
Twenty Twelve follows the Olympic Deliverance Committee's preparations for the world's biggest sporting event. The team is led by Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey), a man too busy balancing work crises with the stress of a crumbling marriage to notice that his personal assistant, Sally (Olivia Colman, Peep Show) carries a different kind of Olympic torch for him. Ian is helped and hindered in dealing with those problems by the rest of his staff: Head of Infrastructure Graham Hitchins (Karl Theobald, Primeval); Head of Contracts Nick Jowett (Vincent Franklin, The Thick of It); Head of Sustainability -- don't call it Legacy -- Kay Hope (Amelia Bullmore, State of Play); and, later, Head of Legacy -- don't call it Sustainability -- Fi Healey (Morven Christie, Hunted). To help with branding, the committee has hired outside consultant Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes, of the immortal Spaced).
The series' two season, 13-episode run follows the basic fake doc structure established by This is Spinal Tap and TV shows like People Like Us and The Office. A documentary crew follows the committee members, capturing every unfortunate mix-up and awkward silence, tied together with bone-dry narrator (a neat cameo by David Tennant) filling time with observations like "By the next morning, it's Wednesday." The formula is sound, the cast is tight, and John Morton knows what he's doing. If only they'd made the show while fake documentaries were still fresh. After years of lesser talent trying their hand at improvised, cheaply shot television, it's hard even for a show with Twenty Twelve's pedigree to rise above the static. It doesn't help that a series built around the countdown to the 2012 Olympics is coming out in 2013. Long-cured of Olympic fever, it's hard to get excited about the pretend ins and outs of the ODC. Twenty Twelve is fun, but it's not timeless.
The best thing about the series is its cast. Along with new-to-me faces like Theobald, Franklin, and Bullmore, it stars several British actors playing against type. It's great to see Hugh Bonneville, for instance, strut his comedic stuff in a non-Downton setting. He brings the same upper class attitude as he does to Lord Grantham, playing a character who thinks on his feet, covering for others' ineptitude with the press and higher-ups by sheer force of will. He isn't the clueless boss one often finds in this type of show. That cartoonish lack of self-awareness is embodied in Jessica Hynes' stylish PR consultant, Siobhan. From the empty motivational phrases covering the walls of her hip-ish office, to the way she constantly stalls for verbal time with a running loop of "ums" and "okays" she is the last person you'd want to see in charge of branding for a major event, and also the kind of person that usually gets hired first. As for Olivia Colman, it's a pity there's not more for her to do but what she does, she does well. Colman has proven herself adept at comedy (in Hot Fuzz and Peep Show) as well as drama -- her performance as a battered wife in Tyrannosaur is heartbreaking. Here, she plays a soft-spoken secretary with hilariously savant-like assistant skills, and her unrequited love for Ian is the closest the series gets to having a romantic arc.
Twenty Twelve arrives on DVD with a capable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Most of the episodes take place in offices, so don't expect much visual flash, but the documentary look is reproduced faithfully. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is equally unassuming, with clear dialogue. The only extras included are a series of one- or two-minute web-quality interviews with Bonneville, Bullmore, Franklin, Hynes, Theobald, executive producer John Plowman, and Lord Sebastian Coe, the real-life British Olympic ambassador who is referenced often in the series and even makes a cameo appearance.
Twenty Twelve is a tough sell in a post-2012 Olympics world where the fake documentary genre has run its course. It's pleasant enough to watch, with fine actors and occasional laughs, but without the added anticipation of the London games, it's more of a curiosity than essential viewing.
Worth a Bronze Medal at least. Not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 377 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site