Episode 1.04 Writer: Tim Price Director: Tom Marshall
THE ONE WHERE The Witches of Kensington return to ruin the Witches of Camden’s anniversary celebrations, but fall foul of a new, kick-ass Grace.
VERDICT While still as frothy as cheap larger served in a half-rinsed-out old washing up bottle, there’s a looser, sillier, more anarchic feel to episode four of Switch that suits the show well. There’s still a touch of CBBC-ishness about it (especially in Janet’s arch performance, the overly-mannered Witches Of Kensington and the mugging of the extras), but the smuttiness feels less self-conscious and out of place. Hell, there’s even a really good knob gag. Two, in fact. You should always cherish a good knob gag.
There are a lot of good moments, especially after Grace is mugged, and the witches switch her a new kick-ass personality. She cuts the power chord on some guy’s irritatingly overloud iPod, encourages some market stall guy to admit that he fancies Hannah and sends Gerry a smutty photo text message (the looks on the band members faces is only marginally less funny than the montage of beneath-the-toilet door shots of Grace taking the photos).
Meanwhile, over at Stella’s advertising agency all the staff have been bewitched to believe that the Kensington coven’s India is a marketing genius (“Shopping, pictures and shopping,” is her key to success). The resulting pitch to make mustard sexy has its own share of comedy highlights: that knob gag (of course), the guy spitting out a mouthful of mustard when the spell’s broken; Grace assuring Janet that India is a “f**ktard”.
Then there’s the organic sanitary towel; everyone in Camden suddenly wearing Jude’s t-shirts; the goat’s head in the fridge. It’s this kind of weirdness that gives the show some much-needed character.
It helps that the dialogue is a lot sharper this week as well; “Do you want a club with mirrors everywhere?” Grace asks a bemused music promoter as she extols the virtues of Gerry’s band.
Where the episode falls down once again – and falls down badly – is the sheer cheesiness of the plotting, and the shallow characterisation. The main storyline is limp and rather predicable, with an ending about the value of friendship that takes trite to a whole new level. It’s also a shame that the Witches of Kensington turn out to be little more than vacuous meddlers. In their first appearance at the end of episode one they seemed to be a real threat. Instead it turns out they’re one-dimensional poor little rich girls who just need a lesson in humility. The whole “rich equals soulless, poor equals life-affirming” shtick is pretty facile even for this show.
The central four witches all benefit from some great, energetic, charismatic performances from the show’s leads (especially Phoebe Fox and Nina Toussaint-White) but the scripts still aren’t fleshing out these characters enough. They argue, but you don’t really care what they’re arguing about; it all seems so frivolous and surface-level. There should have been real fireworks between Jude and Grace about Gerry. Instead BFF power wins out, and Jude just hands him over. (Never mind the fact he’s acting like a right slag…) Admittedly, the Next Time teaser hints there might be some developments on this front, but for the moment it feels like a plot line that’s being handled with a perfunctory lack of conviction.
What the show lacks is real drama. Real tension. Real dilemmas you can care about. Certainly this week it’s a more entertaining watch, but that’s partly because it’s less irritating, whereas it should be because it’s more emotionally engaging, aor more adventurous with its storytelling. It’s funnier sure, but it’s not supposed to be just a sit-com. Is it?
So, definitely a step in the right direction but still not bewitching enough.
SELF-CENSORSHIP Janet’s boss says that India’s advertising pitch about the versatility of mustard includes using the condiment as toothpaste, moisturiser and thrush cream. Later, when India holds the actual presentation, she has some willing test subjects demonstrating mustard’s use as toothpaste and moisturiser… but thankfully not thrush cream. We’ll leave that kind of thing to Misfits, eh?
BEST AARON MOMENT During the Hot Or Not? game in the shop, Aaron takes a shine to a middle-aged bloke who clearly doesn’t get the thumbs up from Jude. “If I do this, he looks a bit like Gerard Depardieu.”
THE NAME GAME Gerry’s band is called NotNowKato, which is presumably a reference to the Pink Panther films, except the Cato in them (Inspector Clouseau’s karate-kicking manservant) is spelt with a “C”. Apart from in A Shot In The Dark, where it is a K.
WITCH LORE With India leaving the Kensington Coven it makes you wonder what powers a lone witch has? Or, indeed, what powers a coven with only three members has? Are they powerless? Are there single, desperate, lonely witches out there looking for covens? Is there an internet coven-matching service? These are ideas it might be fun to explore. Also, do full covens have any limits on their powers? The Camden coven seem to Switch at the drop of a pointy hat. It’d be nice to know what the rules are, if any.
MOST BIZARRE LINE OF THE WEEK “I’m not a bad person. I take my mum to church. She’s gotta wear a nappy.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK Goat’s Head Soup, aka Mannish water, is actually a delicacy in Jamaica, and doesn’t really have much to do with Wiccan culture. It is, however, the name of a Rolling Stones LP that was recorded in Jamaica.
BEST LINE Grace: “This trouser suit makes me feel like I actually have a cock.”