Famalam is the BBC’s newest six-part sketch comedy show, which features the Diaspora’s next generation of potential comedy greats.

The comedy sketch show began its run with episode two last Monday 9th April at 9pm, on BBC3! What’s even better, is that the talented, great-looking, seven-strong central cast is made up of the creators.

Some are familiar faces, having cut their teeth on other TV comedies – two of which are BAFTA TV nominated for 2018 Best Scripted Comedy – Timewasters (2017) [1] and Chewing Gum (2015-17). Some have done the rounds on daytime dramas and murder mysteries and some are newcomers. But, together, they have capitalised on their collective experience to make a formidable comedy tour de force, who mine well-known mainstream shows and films, and Diasporean entertainment for all they’re worth.

The pilot aired last  September 30th, 2017, a diamond-in-the-rough of a début, which is still available on BBC iPlayer. The BBC’s faith in commissioning five more episodes, and investing a much increased production value, has already paid dividends – the show has picked up its first BAFTA TV nomination in Samson Kayo, a now seasoned comedy actor, most recently seen as the charmingly sweet Horace in BAFTA-nominated Timewasters, previously in Murder in Successville (2017), The Javone Prince Show (2015), Youngers (2013-14) and Aml Ameen’s BUFF-winning comedy short Drink, Drugs and KFC (2011). He is in illustrious company in the Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme category, being up against Rob Brydon, Asim Chaudhry, and Toby Jones. He is a shrewd young talent who also showed particular foresight in attaching himself to the Javone Prince writing team as a trainee and should be congratulated on his artistic growth. He forms part of the glue that holds the whole show together with his Midsomer Muthafuckin’ Murder Blaxploitation detective Moses Mountree, Nollywood blockbuster superstar, womanising Wake Up Now William and cut-price Hip Hop ‘star’.

The fantastic John MacMillan is one of the most experienced members, currently, in the Channel 4 and Netflix sci-fi thriller series Kiss Me First. You may remember him as Tracy’s somewhat underused bi-curious ex Ronald in the BAFTA-nominated Chewing Gum [2]. He also brings experience from Midsomer Murders (2017), Ordinary Lies (2016), farcical comedy The Windsors (2016), Sky 1 hospital drama Critical (2015), British legal drama Silk (2014), Sherlock (2010), and the much-missed, never-bettered Hustle (2009). He has also had roles in major Hollywood movies, Maleficent (2014), World War Z (2013) The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Hanna (2011). Keep an eye out for his Rasta Jesus, Croydon Obeah with Professor Lofuko and his Hip Hop video punch line appearances. At times, he seems to channel the late, great Felix Dexter (1961-2013, RIEP)

The remarkable Akemnji Ndifornyen is also one of the most experienced members. He is not only a central cast member, he also writes, produces and composes for the show! He brings experience from all four episodes of The Javone Prince Show (2015) and 6/12 episodes of sitcom The Crouches (2003). He has also been a central cast member in all 26 episodes of Leonardo (2011-12, as Machiavelli) and a series regular in 206 episodes of daytime medical soap Doctors (2004-05). He has also appeared in Death In Paradise (2018), three episodes of WPC 56 (2013), Law and Order: UK (2010) and Casualty (2007). Ndifornyen shares composing duties with Samuel Karl Bohn.

Talented actor, writer, playwright, and TBB favourite Gbemisola Ikumelo [3] [4] is in her absolute element here. She was lately Kadean in Dane Baptiste’s BBC late-night comedy Sunny D (2016) and brings experience also gleaned from Holby City and the second season of Broadchurch (2015). She leads the leftovers Aunty snatch, which is just inspired and is fabulous as unfulfilled Wake Up Now Funke, traditional sex worker and as Nollywood’s vengeful Shola.

Cast of Famalam (l-r)
Gbemisola Ikumelo, Samson Kayo, Tom Moutchi, John MacMillan, Roxy Sternberg, Vivienne Acheampong

The newcomers more than hold their own.

Tom Moutchi is fabulous as a Snapchat-obsessed detective who, between the pilot and episode two, has morphed from a generic type to a more Luther-esque character. It works so much better! He’s also one of the cut-price Hip Hop stars, Sus and his Superhero, Eclipse, are brilliant.

Roxanne ‘Roxy’ Sternberg is new-ish to British mainstream TV, with small parts in Phone Shop, Law and Order: UK and Mount Pleasant. Fans of British Black film will recognise her as co-lead role ‘Chrissy’ in It’s A lot (2013).  America recently called, with the short-lived series evolution of the Wizard of Oz narrative, Emerald City (Emerald City), she also had a role in the sci-fi series Mars (2018). In Famalam Roxy absolutely nails her parts, including the psycho lover, the fair weather BFF and brings her own special twist to her Aunty character. [5]

Vivienne Acheampong who has made the transition from playwright to TV is absolutely gorgeous in close up and turns in performances to match. Racist dating is hilarious, as is her Aunty. [6]

We’re not sure who voices grime MC Scribbler P, but his history bites are razor sharp and lightning fast – completely inspired, like the rest of the show so far. Watch out for ensemble/guest actors Ninette Finch, Kieran Hodgson, Ben Sternberg and Emma Pierson.

Tom Marshall, left, and Akemnji Ndifornyen. Photograph: Laura Shaw

For us, the yardstick for sketch show brilliance has always been The Real McCoy (1991-96, BBC) and Blouse and Skirt (1996-2000, BBC), both of which ticked both the British Black majority line up and the gender balance boxes. 3 Non-Blondes (2003, BBC), Little Miss Jocelyn (2006-08, BBC) and The Javone Prince Show (2015, BBC) tended to live and die on the shoulders of 1-3 stars, which is a lot of pressure in the cutthroat world of modern TV. They also suffered from obscure scheduling and next to no marketing in a TV landscape that ballooned exponentially since the 1990s.

Ndifornyen and seasoned comedy director Tom Marshall (Chewing Gum, Wasted, Drifters, 6-part comedy series Undercover, Skins) share main writing duties and are joined by Jason Hazely and Joel Morris (both Murder In Successville, Yonderland, It Was Alright in the ….  for Omid Djalili and for comedy duos Culshaw and Stephenson, Armstrong & Miller, Mitchell and Webb), Ben Caudell (Peep Show) and Sophie Duker (production team The Revolution Will Be Televised, researcher on comedy gameshow 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, game show French Collection, and music quiz Bring The Noise).

But, it is this magnificent seven who breathe life into characters which viewers will get behind and will want to see again and again in spoofs and pastiches because these actors elevate the material and actually manage to tread that thin and subtle line of comedy satire which seems to have eluded so many British sketch shows! Their quick-fire one-offs are where they veer into criticism a little more, absolutely lampooning issues we will all recognise, somehow without being malicious. They manage to find the genuine humour in British and Diasporean everyday society. It comes through in their performances, and that says a lot for them as people, and as professionals.

Incredibly, Famalam hasn’t got an IMDB page yet, which should be remedied immediately, in our opinion! Don’t let the ‘youth’ label of BBC3 put you off either, everyone will find something to love in this show and love it you will have to, to ensure a second season.

So, with only four more episodes to go every Monday at 9pm, do not miss this! Tune in to BBC3 online or BBC iPlayer, where last Monday’s episode two will be available for five months.

Then, tune in to the BAFTA TV Awards, which will take place on Sunday 13th May 2018 at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank to wish Kayo, and scripted comedies Timewasters and Chewing Gum luck. Whilst generally still blindingly white, also nominated are Thandie Newton Leading Actress for Line of Duty; Channel 4 News and ITV News at Ten each for Best News Coverage of the unfolding Grenfell Fire Tragedy.


References

[1] – http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/tbb-speaks-to-cast-of-itv2s-new-show-timewasters/

[2] – http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/tbbreviews-chewing-gum-catch-up-episodes-1-3/

[3] – http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/the-british-blacklist-speaks-to-gbemisola-ikumelo-currently-starring-in-hopelessly-devoted-tricycle-theatre/

[4] – http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/tbb-speaks-to-multi-talented-creative-gbemisola-ikumelo-about-her-exciting-new-projects/

[5] – http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/emerald-city-starring-brits-jordan-loughran-roxy-sternberg-begins-on-5-star-9pm-tonight/

[6] – http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/vivienne-acheampong-talks-to-tbb-about-taking-her-teaching-experience-to-the-stage-in-rainbow-class/