Next week sees the return of Hoff the Record – Dave’s mockumentary sitcom hybrid starring Knight Rider legend David Hasselhoff alongside TVO regular Fergus Craig. With a top notch regular cast and a number of TVO related guest stars across the run once more, is series two worth the hype?
Ahead of broadcast on Friday 6th May, we find out…
Hoff the Record is a strange beast. Before a single frame of footage was shot for its initial run last year, the show had critics ready to stick the knife in. How could a British sitcom featuring David Hasselhoff playing an exaggerated parody of a glossy, American tv star possibly work? How could it be anything other than a meta-referencing, overly smug nightmare?
The answer was simple: surround The Hoff with genuine comic talent, build a script based on improvisation, and keep the vital spark of that driving away at the core of everything we see on screen. As we stated back when the first series aired ten months ago, the results were “impressive, and above all else, very, very funny”.
Commissioned for a second run before the first had even aired, there’s understandably a strong sense of ‘Same Again’ about the first two episodes of this sophomore effort: albeit one that’s now firing on all cylinders.
Except… the same fundamental problem with the series remains. Funny as it may be, by not being sure if it is a sitcom or a mockumentary, Hoff the Record occasionally wobbles from side to side, never quite nailing either format. One can’t help but feel that if it decided to embrace the former, we could have an I’m Alan Partridge style flight of cringe-inducing, preposterously funny fancy. And if, instead, it decided to go for a full on docu-drama in the style of The Office, there’d be a strong argument for this being up there with recent smash mockumentary Brian Pern.
Instead, the logic police will have a field day with this one. There are numerous sequences which a camera crew logistically wouldn’t be around to capture. And in these situations, nobody ever addresses the silent viewer in the room; never asking the filmmakers to leave during an argument or a bit of devious plotting. More troubling in a comedic sense, perhaps, are moments where the interview cutaways interrupt the flow of a sequence and manage to pull the viewer right out of the action. As we said earlier: Hoff the Record is a strange beast.
Yet in spite of this, TVO must stress that the series retains its wit and genuine ability to make an audience laugh, and any perceived flaws with its stylistic choices are merely an accessory to that end game. As long as a comedy is funny, does it really matter if it isn’t the masterpiece it possibly could be with a bit of a restructure?
The best thing about this second run is that, perhaps after realising that the supporting cast – led by TVO regular Fergus Craig – are near flawless, the show gives them a lot more to do. Indeed, there are stretches in the first episode where The Hoff is virtually silent while his gang bring in the chuckles.
And as useless manager Max Colman, Fergus Craig completely owns his role. He gets to say the bitchiest things, pushes the plot forwards, and for a short time in the first episode, for once stays in complete control of a seemingly successful attempt to booster David’s flagging career. Pretending that David has died, he sneaks the actor into hiding and then orchestrates a glorious puppet show, almost dancing on air at the fact that one of his plans is working.
Sales shoot through the roof, the tributes come pouring in, and even his ex-wife Crystal joins the media circus. Played with bubbly starlet menace by TVO regular Tracy Ann Oberman, Crystal’s out to get every inch of media coverage and cash she can from her brief four-month stint as The Hoff’s wife in the 1980s, and being back on the scene makes it increasingly difficult for David to stay in hiding.
Yet, that’s exactly what he must do, via the scene stealing Asim Chaudhry’s driver turned security guard Terry. Busy mapping out laser-based security systems and talking about self-stimulation a little too often, Terry is a great foil for The Hoff, and gives the writers the chance to introduce his Uncle Ron, played by the magnificent Vincent Ebrahim of The Kumars fame. And this is where Hasselhoff gets to finally flex his comic muscles, befuddled by a man obsessed with double glazing and enjoying a good game of garden cricket.
Because while he may have made a series of wobbly B-movies in recent years, it is easy to forget that The Hoff is a surprisingly good actor when given the right material, and at times during the opening salvo of Series Two he really rises to the challenge with great gusto.
For example, in the second episode, he is convinced to pretend he needs a stint in rehab: in reality a ruse to get on TV across Asia. Whilst there, he meets Kurt – an out of work actor who puzzlingly has too many right answers – played by the ever delightful Alex MacQueen. Yoga-loving, Aztec-referencing, metaphorical wall-climber, Kurt blows The Hoff’s mind and leads him down a dangerous path, and to his credit, David really delivers the kooky nonsense he’s sprouting.
It helps that the criminally underrated Ella Smith has a heavy presence as personal assistant Harriet Fitzgerald. A trained scientist who can’t find another job, Harriet is the only person who realises Max’s schemes are always a bad idea, and does her best to keep The Hoff out of harms way. By far the most likeable of the bunch, Harriet even gets a chance to save the day in the first episode… for a moment at least.
It’s a shame that there isn’t more of Brett Goldstein’s deliciously stupid trainer Danny, or Mark Quartley as the continually baffled Dieter – The Hoff’s illegitimate German son. But when they do appear, they take the ball and run with it: indeed, their search for The Hoff in the opening episode is a real treasure as the former questions police dedication and the latter is confused by both current events and furniture in equal measure.
With future episodes featuring the likes of Jessica Hynes, Kevin Eldon and Julian Rhind-Tutt, TVO would naturally be sticking with the show throughout the run. The good news then, is that it is worth the investment.
Yes, there are places where things feel a little forced, but when it works, there’s real gold to be found here. Put aside preconceptions, turn off your logical brain and just go with the flow, and you’ll find a playful curiosity that can, and probably will get you chuckling.
Hoff the Record returns on Friday 6th May at 10pm, exclusively on Dave.