The golden age of circus performance is dead. According to the script writers of the BBC's newest prime time show, Big Top. Unfortunately for both them and the public, so is the golden age of mediocre sitcoms.
The 'Circus Maestro' is run by sexy modern woman Lizzie (Amanda Holden) who fell into her family business of running a shambolic and squabbling troupe of unfunny clowns, 'zany' (read foreign) acrobats and cynical stagehands.
Picking character actors from various successful comedies - notably John Thompson (The Fast Show), Tony Robinson (Blackadder) and Ruth Maddock (Hi-De-Hi) - smacks of a lazy attempt to fill the void of Last Of The Summer Wine re-runs. Unfortunately throwing seasoned actors against the wall with only facepaint simply doesn't make the show stick. The casting of the perpetually frozen-faced Amanda Holden should really be called placing as 'casting' implies some level of acting. The only benefit for Holden herself will be to re-assure fans of Britain's Got Talent that her tears of joy while watching dance performing dogs must be heartfelt, for she has admirably demonstrated that she has not an acting bone in her body.
Billed as a "warm hearted family comedy" the show lumbers through an archaic and done-to-death premise that clowns are inherently sad and bitter, and that speaking in an Eastern European accent makes people funny. Attempting to add to the credibility of the show by using a live studio audience only serves to underline the flat one-liners as canned hysteria fills the gaps between talent and writing.
In these bleak times it is true that a little escapism could be the perfect panacea as Holden argues: "colour, escapism, eccentricity and clowns. What more could you want?" Well, comedy wouldn't go amiss.