California Literary Review

Twenty Twelve Recap: ‘Clarence House’ (Season 2, Episode 3)

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July 15th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

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Still: Twenty Twelve - Clarence House

Cardiectomy: the emotional lynchpin of the show prepares to leave. Olivia Colman as Sally and Hugh Bonneville as Ian.

The Olympic Deliverance Team are drifting into the office, arguing with people on their phones. Here in the real world, the security company G4S has announced that it may have problems supplying the staff it had intended to work the Olympics, leading the British government to draft in an extra three thousand troops from the Army to make up the shortfall. Still, jokes about the various abilities of London football clubs must be made, and thank heaven Twenty Twelve is here to make them.

In comes Hugh Bonneville and the terrible truth dawns, only half hinted at the end of the last episode. Olivia Colman’s character thought Hugh Bonneville’s character had got back together with his wife, just as she (Colman’s character) was about to reveal her deep and abiding love for him (Bonneville’s character). Without staying to have her heart trampled on any further, or indeed clear up the misunderstanding, she disappears from the show, leaving a new PA in her place, the cheery and to Bonneville’s character faintly unnerving young man Daniel Stroud (Samuel Barnett). He is very definitely New Style – breezy, familiar with the team and slightly irksomely gets on better with most of them than the boss. He’s winsomely hard on himself when he brings a muffin rather than a Danish pastry, showing a proper regard for the niceties of baked goods protocol.

The plot of this episode revolves around a call they have received from Clarence House. Siobhan (Jessica Hynes) is sure this is one of the guys who do that jumping thing (cheap but brilliant joke), but in fact it is the residence of the Prince of Wales. Shelving the royals for the moment, and paying due attention to Jessica Hynes, she has continued to develop Siobhan along increasingly annoying lines. The flattening out of the character I noticed last week has (I think) gone even further, and there’s an entertaining little scene in which Ian (Hugh Bonneville) wants her to stop mucking about on her Blackberry whilst talking to him. It’s not epoch-making, but does capture the slight awkwardness of feeling that someone is being rude to you, but that drawing it to their attention would probably make you ruder than they are being, so you resent them without feeling able to do anything about it. That’s either emotional truth, or it’s one of the really screwed-up things about being from a certain slice of the British middle class and their allied brethren…

Anyway, the royal flunkies have called because they want to talk about a possible co-branding opportunity, given that this year includes the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations. I like this. It has the crass ring of truth about it. Partly because every time I open a newspaper or listen to the radio someone is bleating on about the “jubilympics”, a concept which has much in common with “London Twenty Twelve” in that no-one seems to know whether it is an adjective, a noun, a concept, an intention, an atmosphere or simply a way of telling the people to pay out and shut up.

Meanwhile, Fi Healy (Morven Christie) is continuing her power grab as Head of Legacy. Christie plays the office politics well – making in-jokes with the boss’ PA, forgetting to bring a lighter so he has to pay her attention – and we might wonder yet again whether there’s a decent sitcom inside this show. It’s just a shame that it’s struggling against a heavy load of RELEVANCE and TOPICALITY which it can’t sustain. (The media commentariat at The Guardian have already wished out loud that Siobhan Sharpe gets her own spin-off show. Please no.)

When they get to Clarence House to talk to the chief press officer (Mark Bonnar) and Head of Royal Permissions (Selina Griffiths) it turns out that they can’t use “jubilympics”. Bonnar is terrific as the over-suave PR who expects everyone to be terribly excited that they had an idea which very nearly impressed someone royal but didn’t, and Griffiths does a very good tight-lipped turn as a courtier with a set of intellectual properties1 which she doesn’t intend to see devalued by overexposure. There’s also an authentic touch when the Prince makes a public statement and completely blindsides the elaborate process of deciding how the tax-funded Olympic stadium should be disposed of after the games. That was quite satirical, that was.

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1 A phrase which I’m sure the left and right alike would be outraged to hear applied to the Royal Family…

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