Can life af­ter the Bomb ever be funny?

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Science fic­tion has a

some­what fraught re­la­tion­ship with com­edy. At its best, it’s out­stand­ing, us­ing hu­mour to pin­point ab­sur­di­ties and high­light hu­man in­ter­ac­tions. At its worst it’s clichéd and em­bar­rass­ing, and more, some­thing you know is go­ing to be re­mem­bered and ref­er­enced by non- fans as ev­i­dence as to why SF is rub­bish.

ITV2’ s re­cent Cock­roaches, alas, was more of a Hyper­drive than a Red Dwarf. Es­sen­tially Sur­vivors with jokes, it’s set ten years af­ter a nu­clear attack has de­stroyed Bri­tain as we knew it. At the time of the at­tacks, friends Tom and Suze did what any­one would do faced with death, and had sex. Ten years later they ( em­bar­rass­ingly) sur­vived and now have a young daugh­ter with whom they have to face the post- apoc­a­lyp­tic world, join­ing a dys­func­tional group of mis­fits camped out in the woods, raid­ing su­per­mar­kets and gen­er­ally fail­ing to set up any kind of new civil­i­sa­tion or func­tion­ing so­ci­ety.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing premise; we’re used to see­ing post- apoca­lypse dra­mas where the skilled and knowl­edge­able peo­ple rise to the fore, whereas Cock­roaches ex­am­ines what hap­pens when the group of sur­vivors con­tains no one of any tal­ent. Un­for­tu­nately, in­ter­est­ing thought ex­per­i­ments – like what hap­pens when your only doc­tor turns out to be a psy­chopath – are barely even played for cheap laughs, hinted at, then glossed over and thrown away. But don’t worry, there’ll be an­other mas­tur­ba­tion joke in a minute.

There are brief mo­ments of po­ten­tial – the Wicker Man/ Hu­man Cen­tipede set- up at the end of episode one is great. But this is about easy jokes rather than in­ter­est­ing con­se­quences. All of which would be for­give­able if it was fun­nier, but it’s not.

There’s also no emo­tional truth to the char­ac­ters. Suze cheats on Tom in the first episode, and they bicker about it as though she’d burnt their tea. Tom agrees to have sex with the doc­tor ( Alexander Arm­strong) in ex­change for an an­ti­dote to cure his daugh­ter; it turns out she was fak­ing her ill­ness for at­ten­tion and any emo­tional reper­cus­sions from what was es­sen­tially rape are to­tally ig­nored.

Science fic­tion can ex­am­ine great vis­tas and uni­ver­sal con­cepts; com­edy can pull apart the minu­tiae of hu­man in­ter­ac­tions and the petty rou­tines of day- to- day life. Cock­roaches – crude, un­funny and dull – does none of those things. There is an in­ter­est­ing com­edy to be made about life in a nu­clear waste­land. But this isn’t it. Rhian Drinkwa­ter

Quite frankly we’d pre­fer real cock­roaches.

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