Back to Beaver Falls, E4

The re-defining of British channels as a result of their US acquisitions is something that all television fans have had to get used to. Whilst Sky Atlantic’s deal with HBO has brought them Game of Thrones, VEEP and re-runs of The Soprano’s, E4 is steadily building an impressive portfolio of American exports – The Big Bang Theory, Revenge, Suburgatory , and the re-located New Girl to name just a few. It was announced last week that Channel 4 had acquired the rights to The New Normal, Ryan Murphy’s (Glee, Nip/Tuck) new project. Beaver Falls is a British show with an American heart. It’s a quintessentially E4 show.

Beaver Falls returns with an episode that goes beyond the gates of the camp and out into California. After their plans to find and reacquaint themselves with the girls they left behind fail, Flynn, Barry and A-Rab (Sam Robertson, John Dalgleish, Arsher Ali) decide to find a bar and drink away their myriad of problems. A-Rab has discovered that Rachael (Kristen Gutoskie) is married, Kimberly (Natasha Loring) catches Barry taking naked pictures of her as she sleeps, and Flynn is humiliated after his plans to seduce newcomer PJ (Scarlett Alice Johnson) backfire. It’s a distracted-mind that didn’t see it all coming, but writer Iain Hollands manages to maintain a level of sympathy that carries this otherwise weak episode of television.

Though it tries to be about so much more, Beaver Falls is a show about a community that comes together once a year. The American characters are all products of this camp, people who have spent summer after summer with each other. We don’t see the rest of the year, though Kimberly does mention that she has dated a lot of guys, much to Barry’s disgust. By taking the show away from camp, and featuring the kids very little, the adult-nature of the show is emphasised. The drunken fight that leads to the ludicrous mass-arrest is more a reflection of Skins than The Inbetweeners, the latter being a show that Beaver Falls owes a lot to. When the kids arrive towards the end of the episode I was reminded why I have fond memories of the show.

The performances of the cast are Beaver Falls’  strongest hand, and newcomers Hope (Emer Kenny) and PJ fit well with the tone the returning cast established last year. Ben Hawkey as the articulate and damaged Rick Junior was a particular high-light of the episode, his new goth persona adding to his comic arsenal.

But whilst it would be easy to get caught up in the adolescent humour and constant quest for sexual gratification that these characters have, it was excellent to see the return of some of Series 1’s more important issues. Flynn’s illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is brought back into play early. A cast on his arm reveals the current state of his health, or more specifically that the degeneration he feared throughout Series 1 has begun.

Deceit is still a theme that Beaver Falls uses very effectively, both jovially and sincerely. Whilst Flynn’s illness is known to those who matter, camp-official Bobby has a secret of his own we can presume will become an ongoing story-line – he isn’t PJ’s real father. I find Bobby (Todd Boyce) the weakest of all the characters but his despair appears to be manifesting itself into something genuinely dangerous. Hopefully this series will not view him so much as the law-enforcer, but rather as someone whose own issues override their instincts.

Beaver Falls is by no means a show that demands a great deal of attention from the viewer. The storylines are strange, brash and often predictable.  But it has a level of relevance that is admirable, and probably important to a minority who watch it. It’s certainly a show that I’ll stick with.

Contributed by Will Downes Follow Will on Twitter

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