BBC iPlayer TV review: Frankie Boyle’s American Autopsy
James R | On 16, Nov 2016
Frankie Boyle. 5 years ago, those two words may well have sent a shiver down your spine. Something’s happened since his shock jock days, though. He’s not changed, but the medium has. BBC iPlayer has emerged as a natural home for Boyle, not just because he can say what he likes, but because the edited nature of Mock the Week meant that his lewd, cruel jokes were taken out of context. iPlayer’s uncut platform gives it back – and that context is provocatively smart and fiercely astute. He’s no longer an abrasive, braying Scotsman who says deliberately offensive things that can’t be broadcast on normal TV. He’s an abrasive, braying Scotsman who says deliberately offensive things that are keenly observed and designed to make you think.
And so, after a successful EU referendum special and another for last year’s general election, he’s back again to dissect the result of the US presidential race. It’s perfect territory for Boyle, who isn’t afraid to grapple with big topics and politics, but also understands the terrifying desolation and wasteland Trump’s election may bring about in a way that only someone from Glasgow can.
“The death throes of humanity will be a carnage of indescribable horror,” he bluntly intones, “which I shall now describe.”
What follows is a slew of crude imagery and foul words, all delivered with a blunt glee – the same deadpan wit that lets him reference Peter Sutcliffe and describe Donald Trump as a “melted He-Man action figure”, both comments that make you appreciate the horror of Donald’s victory in a new, unsettling light.
But the best thing about Boyle’s iPlayer specials is how generous he is as a host. He seems to get a hand in who else is on the show and that means he’s not only accompanied by female comedians, who have always been given short shrift by TV comedy and panel shows, but that they’re good ones too; Canadian Katherine Ryan gives us good as he can when it comes to shocking statements, while Sara Pascoe is predictably amusing. Even with Richard Osman on hand for added wryness, it’s great to see the men are still outnumbered, thanks to the presence of Desiree Burch and, best of all, the insightful and sharp Michelle Wolf, who, despite not being in the whole thing, easily demonstrates why she’s part of The Daily Show team.
The format, by now, is enjoyably familiar, as we see Boyle pitch three questions to the crowd for them to vote on; the title “American Autopsy” gives you a taste of the wider cultural issues Frankie is looking to skewer. The ensuing discussions won’t teach you anything new about the US election, but they will make you laugh about it – and, frankly, with a possible Trumpocalypse on the horizon, the world could do with a bit of laughter. Bitter, unflinching laughter delivered by a bearded pied piper of horror who gives a damn and doesn’t give a damn in equal measure. We vote more please.
For more on what’s good on BBC iPlayer, check out our weekly highlights column here.
Photo: Endemol Shine Group