03 May, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Boy Meets Girl"


Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"I hate it when that happens. You know, when you're standing in the rain under an electricity pylon, there's a big lightning strike, and suddenly you've turned into a woman.

Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that at the start of Boy Meets Girl. There are two people standing in the rain under a pylon when lightning strikes, and their two personalities swap bodies. So Danny the person jumps into Veronica's body and vice versa.

I just had a chat with our science writers, and they say it almost certainly wouldn't happen in real life. So the premise of Boy Meets Girl is a fairly big ask of the viewer.

Once you're there though, it's mildly amusing. Genders are boiled down to the very basics. So being a woman is about gossiping with friends, makeup, white wine and shoes. And being a man means being messy, smelly, a bit hopeless and liking beer. Fair enough, I guess.

The first thing that Danny does, inside Veronica, is to have a fumble of his own boobs. And then he gives himself an orgasm with the aid of vibrator. Well, you probably would, wouldn't you? But I wasn't entirely surprised to see that this is written by a man, David Allison, as this seems to be a fairly male perspective on what being a woman is all about. Wey hey, I've got my own puppies to play with, and a Rampant Rabbit!

The two leads are good though - Martin Freeman as Danny and Rachael Stirling as Veronica, or is it the other way round; it's hard to know who's playing who really.

I'm not sure the gender-swap thing itself is going to be enough to keep it going for four episodes. So there's going to have to be some additional plotlines to keep up the interest. I guess it's going to be all about them trying to get back to where, or who, they were before, with plenty more help-I'm-a-man/woman jokes along the way.

It's sort of Life On Mars I suppose, but they're trapped not in the wrong era but in the wrong body, and one of the wrong sex. Life in Mars then, and Life in Venus. Kinda ..."

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Caitlin Moran, The Times

"As a TV critic it feels a bit weird — almost inappropriate — to be writing something positive about ITV1. Last month, when I was joyful about the ITV1 documentary series Holloway, I felt a little bit . . . patronising, to be honest. I mean, ITV1 is dying on its arse — it’s posted a £2.7 billion loss, had to slash The Bill back to one day a week, despite six million viewers and a Bafta for best soap, and now Michael Grade’s jumped ship. In that kind of climate, being nice about one documentary, once, is a bit like when you’re introduced to someone’s charmless, hyperactive and borderline violent ten-year-old child, and weakly say, “Oh, what a lovely cardigan she has on!”

Imagine, then, the maelstrom of conflicted feelings I am experiencing on discovering that ITV1 has managed to make another more-than-watchable show — barely four weeks later. I can’t help but feel that, should I start championing it, that I will be a little bit like Peter Andre, who ran the London Marathon with “JADE” written on his arm in felt-tip. Can I come in, this late in the day, and pretend to be ITV1’s friend? I’m clearly around only for the good times, such as they may be. Indeed, with my “forthright” reviews of Lewis, Primeval and Wild at Heart, I have, in some small way, constituted quite a lot of ITV1’s bad times.

But there we go and here we are, and there’s no two ways about it: ITV1’s new comedy-drama, Boy Meets Girl, is really good. ITV1 has, almost unprecedentedly, given a total newcomer — the writer David Allison — three hour-long episodes. Furthermore, for a channel predominantly reliant on Wayne Sleep eating wallaby gonad sacs in the jungle, they’ve let Allison go pretty high-concept: a man and a woman swap souls, and subsequently re-evaluate the world from the shoes of the opposite sex.

Or, to make it low-concept again, Boy Meets Girl is basically Freaky Friday crossed with Uptown Girl by Billy Joel: posh bird jumps into the body of chippy slob, and vice versa.

Kevin Turvey-alike Danny (Martin “Tim from The Office” Freeman) and the Carrie Bradshaw-esque fashion journalist Veronica (Rachael Tipping the Velvet Stirling) meet during a storm and get struck by Mankind’s favourite narrative enabler of time travel and/or body-swapping: a huge bolt of lightning. When they wake, what looks like the bloke from The Office is, inside, a very scared, panicking middle-class woman with total amnesia — reduced to begging on the streets for enough money for an all-butter croissant from Pret. Meanwhile, the body of that gorgeous chick from Tipping the Velvet holds within a conspiracy theorist pig, who is revolted by “her” metrosexual boyfriend (Paterson Joseph), but loves “her” swishy warehouse apartment and Bang & Olufsen entertainment cockpit.

Brightly, Allison has made Boy Meets Girl not about gender confusion but character confusion. In the first episode, centred all on “Danny”, “his” main problem is not suddenly handling knickers and heels, but Veronica’s high-maintenance, wineswilling, chattering-class, infidelity-racked life. This allowed us a pleasurable hour of watching Stirling sniffing, slumping, slurping and burping around her formerly chi-chi life; lying on the sofa with her hood up, watching TV with a fag, and having slow, selfish Danny-thoughts pass across her beautiful, malleable face. Indeed, so far, Stirling has been extraordinary — she is not so much playing a man as playing a man who is still a boy inside, and therefore who was also playing a man. Who is Tim Freeman anyway? It’s all a little bit mind-meldy. I’m sure the Bafta committee is already taking notes.

Next week’s episode is all about Veronica in the body of Freeman — giving him an equal opportunity to really get in there with some top-quality face-acting and well-observed woman-style walking. The premise of the show does hold the threat that it could, ultimately, sputter out in an orgy of man/woman huggin’n’learnin’ — but so far, the prospects are good for a satisfyingly bumpy ending.

And it is definitely on ITV1. I’ve just checked again. "

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John Preston, The Daily Telegraph

"Many theories have been put forward as to why Michael Grade is stepping down as Executive Chairman of ITV. But I’m beginning to suspect I know the real answer. Someone hovering above him in the hierarchy must have seen Boy Meets Girl (Friday, ITV1) and decided that this couldn’t be allowed to go on.

Boy Meets Girl is a new comedy/drama which began with that traditional harbinger of trouble: a flash of lightning. Warehouseman Danny (Martin Freeman) meets beauty editor Veronica (Rachael Stirling) under an electricity pylon on a stormy night.

The pylon promptly falls over, sending a pleasingly large portion of the national grid through the pair of them. We then go back to ‘earlier that day’ where we learn that Danny is a tedious conspiracy theorist who’s always banging on about how the CIA bombed the Twin Towers. Just in case you thought he had any redeeming features, he also believes in flying saucers. There was a certain comfort to be gained from the knowledge that he was shortly to be electrocuted – but not much.

When Danny wakes up in hospital, he realises that his brain has somehow lodged itself in Veronica’s body – and vice versa. This set-up might have had some possibilities, I suppose, but as presented here both protagonists are eerily unlikeable. As for charm… the needle never quivered, let alone stirred.

‘You’re not yourself,’ Danny’s boyfriend, Jay (Paterson Joseph) tells her. Various unfunny observations on the difference between men and women followed, along with two I-can’t-get-the-hang-of-this-walking-in-high-heels-business jokes – put very close together, presumably to keep the wave of merriment cresting breezily along. Stirling was rather good with her gruff voice and surly boyish mannerisms. However, David Allison’s script gave them both pitifully little to work with, and Alrick Riley’s direction did nothing to conceal its deficiencies."

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David Allison Interview

Sally Brockway asks David about

  • How, when the press have been calling him a new writer, he got access to the right people to pitch his show. (You might find the - remarkably candid - answer amusing!)
  • The balance of skill and compromise that's needed to write for long running series
  • How, once again, starting writing in the theatre can give you the flying start you need
  • Interesting figures on his own personal development to commission ratio
  • How to deal with rejection and depression of being a writer - and even how it can be instructive
  • The real truth about how to network (And no, it's not about giving out business cards at parties
  • Whether developing shows that you believe people is a good or a bad idea
  • How he plugs the Danny character into his worst, most fearful situation as a means of driving the story on
  • How to pitch - in particular, how all you might need, with the right relationships in place, is a single page
  • How to avoid that terrible feeling of running out of story halfway through a script
  • David builds detailed character sheets - but it's a specific sort of detail he looks for when he builds them. He explains this in some detail

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Catch up with ITV Player

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Official Site

Press Pack


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4 comments:

Sofluid said...

I fear this genre of TV and film is on its last legs... It's been done so many times now: Freaky Friday, It's A Boy Girl Thing... Then there's related films such as She's The Man and Big.

They can be made fresh by varying the comedic methods of representation and devising new situations for the characters to be in, but all in all these ways aren't limitless and I think, in all honesty, they've nearly all been covered now.

I am still intruiged to watch Boy Meets Girl to see how the writer has approached it this time, but I remain convinced that it won't raise any "fresh" laughs from me... After all, I only just watched It's A Boy Girl Thing the other night...

Robin Kelly said...

I used to think that but body-swap - just like any genre - will probably keep going forever. If they run out of new situations then they will just re-use old situations. Few will notice and even fewer will care.

Devising new situations for the characters is one thing but I think it's about devising new characters. New characters in an old situation will react in a different way than the old characters did.

Fresh new characters will always make a genre fresh - as long it remains character-led and doesn't sacrifice truth for cheap laughs or obvious plotting.

Sofluid said...

I suppose so... I was thinking about that the other night and I did remind myself that there are a lot of genres that repeat themselves continually. Like Goodnight sweetheart, Life on Mars, Dr Who - all got the same theme in common.

I do love the body-swap theme...
I watched half of Boy meets Girl last night (but then had to give up because the buffering was really annoying us on't internet and it was time to sleep)... But I must say I was quite impressed. It certainly made me want to watch the last half!

Michelle Lipton said...

That interview with David is fantastic, what a nice chap.

Thanks for the link.