Written by Hugo Lewkowicz
Produced by Jack Dalziel
Directed by Emily Fitzpatrick
The apocalypse may be upon us, but there’s always time for some day-time telly. In the lead up to the end of days, there’s not much else to do but sit back, watch crap and indulge in train videos, skateboarding budgerigars, and our favourite presenters – oh, and wait Until The Ad Break before tweeting our opinions of course.
Hosts of ‘The Hello Show’ Francine Quick and Dale Maxton have the difficult task of entertaining the nation as the world crumbles around them. Difficulty? They don’t know the world is ending. Between climate change, murder hornets and quinoa, the hosts struggle to keep their cool as fellow doom-and-gloom spouting weather correspondent Gabriel Spring (played by director Emily Fitzpatrick) is preparing for doomsday.
Complete with unnecessary cutaways, segments and interviews, Until The Ad Break plays out like any other day-time chat show format, but where the real crux concerns itself is the behind-the-scenes action. The drama, the lies, the panics, and the sex, oh yes, all those times we paired off presenters? Well, they’re all at it.
These transition sequences, where the show moves from a sickly over-the-top parody into a notably more brutal exchange of insults and emotions, demonstrate the makings of a strong production. The concept is far from new, but this back-stage setting before the apocalypse adds an enticing dynamic which the sadists among us can latch onto.
The opening moments, drenched in phoney smiles and over-the-top humour leads to concerns of fresh out of drama school performances, which are quickly gut-punched by Francine Quick’s (Ellie Stewart-Dodd) dark retorts to co-host Dale Maxton (Bradley Pascall). What follows is a layered format which swings between grim comedy, absurdist plotlines and visual gags.
This comedy takes bold leaps, and the gamble pays off when the cast refrain from shying from delivery – but it’s uneven across the whole production. Expectations of a skit-based show will inevitably have their strengths and weaknesses, unfortunately for Maverick Charles Productions, the digital format means that editing takes it’s toll in slowing momentum on occasion, with transitions to and from the ‘studio’ set up jarring pacing.
From Gabriel’s lyric dropping of BBC children’s classics to the forcible control of the scheduling from the producer, Until the Ad Break reeks of nostalgia for the late eighties right up to end of the nineties television. Stewart-Dodd’s revolting BBC grin pairs well with Pascall’s controlling lead mechanic, which amps up the tension between the two as the facades drop, the truths out themselves and the three work off one another as the energy builds into a climax.
Lewkowicz plays their best chips early though, cashing in the Armageddon angle early into the show which drags it out, before being lifted back up as Pascall and Stewart-Dodd lead into a sobering moment as the realisation of things to come dawn on the pair. There’s a wealth of material, an entire season or staged production’s worth, which dips itself too heavily into the revolution aspect too soon, peaking.
With some superb performances, principally from Stewart-Dodd and the brief, memorable irritations of producer Haris Nabi, the team manage to emulate a quintessentially British success in the vain of Dominic Brigstocke & Caroline Norris’ Horrible Histories programming with minor hints of Python influence. The world may indeed be ending, but at least we have some solid entertainment to see it through.
Until The Ad Break is available to watch until August 30th here