Controversy has always stalked Frankie Boyle throughout his career, and his latest creation, Tramadol Nights, proves to be no exception. As a former panellist on the BBC show, Mock the Week, his ability to wield dark humour was often unrivalled in comparison to that of his peers, and developed to the point where he himself became the crux of the show. Some would argue that his departure left a deep ‘void’ in Mock the Week, a void that his contemporaries have yet to fill. Frankie Boyle widely cited his departure to enable him to focus on his solo career and projects, but attempts by the BBC to tone down his material were also considered a main factor.
Tramadol Nights is the first of his solo ‘projects’ to come to fruition. However, where his caustic humour lead the pack in Mock the Week, his efforts in Tramadol Nights (C4) is nothing less than disappointing and makes quite uncomfortable viewing. There are two main elements to the show; his stand-up and a series of sketches. When watching the stand-up routines, one cannot help but build a disliking for the man. The material (if not reused from older tours), coupled with his aggressive and contemptible manner, seems to have very little in the way of humour or wit, and instead induces a feeling of uneasiness. It seems as if Frankie’s primary intention is to unrelentlessly insult various sections of society, rather than provoke laughter. Cancer sufferers and the disabled are key examples of such groups that have come under his ire. The show has already caused a cascade of complaints, criticising his use of racial slurs and his slandering of the mentally ill. The manner in which Frankie ridicules his audience (often done by comedians as part of the routine) is also vastly aggressive and hostile to the point where comic effect is lost and becomes very unpleasant viewing.
The sketches also seem to lack humour (or purpose for that matter), but for a different reason. The material is just bland and inane in nature and is not helped by their flimsy execution. This has the added consequence of making them very tedious to watch (in particular the Knight Rider sketch). Even the Go-Compare advert provides a greater sense of comic relief. Also, most of the sketches seem to be underpinned with extremely puerile obsession with sex. For example, one sketch parodises the film the Green Mile where John Coffey heals the protagonists via sexual intercourse , as the only means of generating amusement. It’s this blandness and uninventive nature of sketches, along with the callousness of the stand-up which leads to the summation that Tramadol Nights is best left unseen and unheard.
(Seems a shame as the animated preview clip was fairly amusing!)