‘Big School’, Episode 1 Review

Big School presented an outdated format alongside a tired storyline.”

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I’m not quite sure why the BBC made ‘Big School’. Are there not enough existing documentaries/dramas/comedies set in schools? The same channel, BBC Three, is already home to Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education, which is also, you guessed it; a comedy set in a school. Why didn’t anyone at the Beeb spot this? The only real difference between the two is that one is slightly funnier than the other …unfortunately; it was Big School that just wasn’t quite ready for its television graduation.

Co-written by David Walliams, episode one of Big School reeked of old copied formats and predictable jokes. Everything should have been straightforward. There was so much the programme could have done in a setting that lent itself to copious opportunities for comedy, but instead the only laugh the thirty minutes got was when one of the teachers failed to kick a football properly right at the start of the programme. This was something so subtle, it probably wasn’t even written into script.

The story line, of chemistry teacher Mr Church (Walliams) moments away from resignation, meeting and instantly falling for the new French teacher Miss Postern (Catherine Tate) seemed as though it could have been written by one of the school children themselves. There was nothing interesting about the programme; nothing new. Instead there was a lot of bumbling between the three leads, Walliams, Tate and Mr Gunn aka, Phillip Glenister, as the two men attempted to impress the new member of staff. Yes, it’s a tried and tested situation that if played correctly will always deliver, but that doesn’t mean it has to be approached in such an age-old fashion. I found myself narrating what would happen next, and sure enough, my predictions were often correct.

Along the same vein, the characters were all very stereotypical. The headmistress (Frances de la Tour) took to drinking the confiscated alcohol to cope with a school of hopeless teachers. The new French teacher (Tate) entered the episode ditzy. The PE teacher was sleazy and slimy and with regards to Walliam’s as the chemistry teacher- he wore tweed, was ‘married to the job’ yet unable to pass on this enthusiasm to the pupils and fell in love with the new French teacher approximately three minutes after she entered the episode. All we needed was an ‘away with the fairies’ arts teacher and we could have screamed ‘bingo’.

Big School presented an outdated format alongside a tired storyline. It felt like the commissioner had said, “just let Walliam’s do it,” rather than actually bothering to find or source another better and more original idea. Just because the people writing these programmes already have a track record in comedy and a gaggle of fans, doesn’t mean that the new scripts they pitch won’t fall short. Unfortunately, Big School proved this and the whole thing was ultimately tired.