TV Review: Mammoth, BBC Two & iPlayer

TV Review: Mammoth, BBC Two & iPlayer

Typical. You wait ages for a new BBC sitcom named after a huge extinct creature and then two come along in the same week. I'll be writing about Ashley Storrie's Dinosaur later but first we must address the elephant in the room. Or should we say Mammoth, as that's the title of this new sitcom which, without ever really mentioning it, is largely a comedic reverse-spin on Life On Mars, but set in a school in Wales where teacher Tony Mammoth returns to work having been dug up in 2024 following being buried in an avalanche in 1979.

I'm sure there will be more complex plot development over the series, but the first episode – following a successful pilot in 2021 - is basically a series of gags about the Des Lynam-tached throwback getting used to the modern world. If it's not bad enough that he's not allowed to smoke his pipe anywhere in the school he's got to deal with modern manners and modern technology. The head of PE isn't just a woman, she's a gay woman. Shock, horror. When he receives a parcel from Amazon he poses in his kimono when the courier asks to take a picture on the doorstep – of the parcel (a gag that's already old but still funny the way he does it).

So to a certain extent the comedy writes itself, but the performances give it some extra heft. Bubbins, who apparently supplied much of the snakeskin-heavy wardrobe and vintage car himself, is a bit too good as the 45 going on 90 omething single man Mammorth. At times, when we see him downing a pint in one while wearing a Starsky-style cardigan it doesn't look like too much of a stretch. There's a whiff of David Brent here and there around his utter lack of self-awareness, but hopefully there is some heart too - he isn't just a randy teacher who wants to chat up every single mums at the parents evening.  

Sian Gibson is good too as a parent with a problem child at the school. Mammoth may possibly take him under his wing but in the first episode he merely hits him in the face with a car door when he drives onto the school playing field. Coming from an era when Health and Safety didn't exist and kids pummelled each other until blood spurted out during British Bulldog in PE lessons, all Mammoth says afterwards is that he didn't leave a dent in the door. 

So yes, there is a heavy reliance on time-warp gags, often involving Bille Jean King references. I do wonder what audience it's aimed at – not just people who were around then, surely? But if you get the name checks they do work, exposing how ridiculous the 1970s were while also slyly hinting that maybe some aittudes now are not necessarily as progressive as they might seem. It's also a sneaky way of getting unreconstructed gags back onto television. If it gets both demographics it could be massive. If not it could soon be extinct.

Read an interview with Mike Bubbins and Sian Gibson here.

Mammoth, Wednesdays from 17 April on BBC Two at 10pm and available on BBC iPlayer. 


Articles on beyond the joke contain affiliate ticket links that earn us revenue. BTJ needs your continued support to continue - if you would like to help to keep the site going, please consider donating.

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.