"You're all very young and impressionable," history teacher Alfie Wickers (Jack Whitehall) tells his teenage students in Bad Education (ABC2, 9pm), but it turns out that Alfie is the most easily influenced of anyone in his classroom. A twentysomething graduate just ambitious enough to get in over his head, Alfie's lessons in this British sitcom invariably turn out to be examples of what not to do.
Tonight the staff at Abbey Grove secondary school in Hertfordshire are dealing with a new craze: the video game Tokyo Sin SS Deadlight District (not an actual game, yet …) whose addictive power is demonstrated when it's sampled in the staffroom and the assembled educators turn into console cowboys; the ancient art teacher's trash talking is particularly inspired.
For Alfie it's a chance to impress biology teacher Rosie Gulliver (Sarah Solemani), so he seizes on her mention of holding a weapons amnesty. Small problem: none of the kids is armed, so despite having urged non-violent conflict resolution Alfie soon implores his pupils to procure weapons.
As is the case with many British comedies, Bad Education surrounds an inept but likeable protagonist with severely eccentric personalities whose casual remarks are either inappropriately appalling or verging on the surreal. Fraser the principal (Mathew Horne) could be the wingman for David Brent on a night out, while his deputy, Isobel (Michelle Gomez), appears to have transferred from Hogwarts.
One of the show's pleasures is how Alfie regresses into a teenager at the first sign of a challenge or the presence of Rosie. It helps that Whitehall's face screws up with the same mix of repulsion and embarrassment Rik Mayall brought to The Young Ones. Don't try that at home.
Not surprisingly, a self-defence class set up by Fraser with his gym buddy, Preet (Harry Peacock), gets out of hand. Preet is a jolly Afrikaner sociopath, and while we're taught to look beyond the cultural cliches I laughed myself silly at his accent and aggro. I failed, but the show passes. I give Bad Education a B-.
If Tina Fey's stint earlier this week as the co-host of the Golden Globes reminded you of her comic brilliance (even Leonardo DiCaprio laughed at her Leonardo DiCaprio supermodel joke), then reruns of 30 Rock (SBS 2, 7.05pm) Mondays through to Thursdays are what you need. Bonus: SBS has not buried them after 11pm, as Channel Seven was wont to do.
Fey's Liz Lemon thinks she has found the perfect man in agoraphobic millionaire Gavin Volure (a priceless Steve Martin), whose odd habits actually suit her. Being 30 Rock, it all goes hilariously wrong for Liz, allowing the sublimely humorous remarks of Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy to flow. When he and Fey make jokes we're all very young and impressionable.