The cast of Channel 4 Squared constrasted performance styles to hilarious effectTheo Chen with permission for Varsity

Channel 4 Squared, a sketch show that follows “a day’s programming of a (slightly scuffed) TV channel” begins with an amazing premise. The world of television is so varied and yet so absurd that it’s not so much a rich vein for comedy than a goldmine. I’m happy to say that Channel 4 Squared more than delivers on this potential to give a thoroughly enjoyable, and crucially hilarious, experience.

The sketches themselves range from pastiches of hyper-critical TV chefs demanding that their contestants make toast, to an Antiques Roadshow parody analysing the worth of a drinking bird desk toy. While the majority of the sketches do revolve around the formula of “here is a TV show format, mock the TV show format,” this doesn’t make Channel 4 Squared one note at all: in fact, the range of shows mocked makes it more varied than many sketch shows I’ve seen.

“The cast showed an incredible amount of variety”

The cast showed an incredible amount of variety, especially in their levels of energy. I’ve long been sceptical of whether deadpan delivery can work in sketch comedy, but the drollness of Dan Mills, Will Boyce and Dom Andrews convinced me otherwise. Will Boyce in particular had the audience in stitches as an entirely deadpan antiques expert, relaying the amazing history of the artefact with his controlled low energy.

These deadpan performances contrasted amazingly with the more high-energy performers. Christian Longstaff brought a manic, circus-like energy to every scene he was in: even as an old, past-it superhero he brimmed with energy. Helen Woods had an ability to switch from calm and collected to over the top and terrifying: this was used to great effect as a children’s exercise coach forcing her students into a satanic ritual. The entire cast deserves commendation: a great script, well acted.

“Christian Longstaff brought a manic, circus-like energy to every scene he was in”

What was really unique about Channel 4 Squared was its use of screened footage. A show about TV that didn’t use any projected mini films would have missed a trick, but directors Michael Elizabeth and Zach Lonberg, and assistant director Amelia Cordwell, leant into this to great effect. A PSA regarding the mistreatment of rubber ducks was elevated by a sombre reel of the poor ducks getting brutalised. Equally hilarious was a game show about apples and nectarines, whose video component used visual tricks of nectarines hiding in apples to wrong foot the cast and the audience. Even where it wasn’t needed, such as the use of low-budget footage of a rocket playing before a Doctor Who parody, this gave a sense of place and authenticity to the proceeding sketch. The fact that said rocket was on fire was a hilariously incongruous touch.


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I am not without a few niggles. The show didn’t start as strongly as it could have done. The framing sketch satirising governments leaning on news sources and their futile attempts at impartiality fell somewhat flat, with most of the humour coming from merely pointing at what the sketch was satirising, as opposed to giving it a twist. The first twenty minutes were off to a slow start, with a sketch about a deadbeat dad reporter on results day missing a lot of potential comedy to focus on the “bad dad is funny” gag. Sketches dragged somewhat, and despite strong acting from the outset the gags weren’t landing. But some of this can be put down to the actors and the audience warming up.There was also a certain lack of polish to the whole show, which at times made scenes stall and meant lines were forgotten, but overall this added to its charm.

If overall solid writing, amazing performances, and an extended gag about Clarkson’s Farm can help you overlook a few technical difficulties and fluffed lines (and really they should) then I would thoroughly recommend Channel 4 Squared. If a show has to pause for a full minute as the audience uncontrollably cackle, all over the single word “kachow”, it’s a very good show indeed.