New sitcoms on mainstream channels always stare directly into the jaws of darkness as purse-lipped audiences wait, arms crossed, to be entertained. Big School probably faces an even more hostile reception as it’s co-written (with the Dawson Brothers) by David Walliams, who also stars. I bet there are a few people waiting to take him down a peg or two.
So please give Big School a chance. It doesn’t ooze sophistication, in fact it’s pretty silly. But it has a great cast and I heard myself laughing out loud in a few places. Walliams is secondary school deputy head of science Mr Church, a shy man with a terrible perm who’s inexperienced with women and who listens to Phil Collins in his Austin Allegro. But he’s transfixed by the new French teacher, comely Miss Postern (Catherine Tate). Big School turns out to be rather sweetly old-fashioned – in a good way.
The public disembowelling of ‘The Wright Way’ will have put a few comic heavyweights on alert about upcoming projects, but David Walliams doesn’t have too much to fear where his new sitcom ‘Big School’ is concerned. It may be a little light on jokes, but it’s transparently good-natured, agreeably old-fashioned and with an adult cast so attention-grabbing that the pupils occasionally feel a little incidental to proceedings. Walliams is Mr Church, the sad-sack chemistry teacher who withdraws his proposed resignation when highly desirable maverick French teacher Miss Postern (Catherine Tate) arrives to shake up Greybridge secondary school. Frances de la Tour’s withering headmistress, Daniel Rigby’s clueless music tutor and Philip Glenister’s non-PC PE teacher all grapple over scenes to steal and prise some good laughs out of the sometimes slight material.
It’s no Grade-A student, but ‘Big School’ isn’t expulsion fodder either – a decent achievement with so few new sitcoms worthy of a pass these days.
Major sitcoms have had a torrid time recently: any new comedy gets approximately 0.35 seconds chance before the world and his wife is taking to Twitter to give it a kicking. So 100 bravery points go to David Walliams, who has written this new comedy about a hopeless secondary school, in which he himself stars as the deputy head of science, Mr Church, a timid fellow with an awful permed hair-don’t. The arrival of the new French teacher, Miss Postern – played by Catherine Tate – sends Mr Church’s lonely heart a-flutter. Standing in his way is a love rival in the shape of Philip Glenister’s Mr Gunn, the PE teacher. It’s traditional, tittersome fare that harks back to a simpler age of comedy, but with three fine stars, and classy support from the likes of Frances de la Tour and ‘The Thick Of It’s’ Joanna Scanlan, it is none the worse for that.