Mammoth review: wistfully hilarious trip back to the boorish and misogynistic 1970s

Television: Mike Bubbins’s creation is a giggle-fest that pokes fun at the decade that political correctness forgot

If television has taught us anything, it is the 1970s were the funniest decade of all time. It was the era of mandatory creaking leather jackets, fluffy dice the size of your clenched fist, and workplace sexism – all soundtracked by disco, funk, and David Bowie. Who could resist?

Not Mike Bubbins, writer and star of the wistfully hilarious and often very weird Mammoth (Wednesday, BBC2, 10pm) – a sitcom about a PE teacher buried in ice in 1979 who returns to his old job after a 45-year hiatus. He discovers times have changed, and that chatting up the mums at the parent-teacher meeting is no longer acceptable. Especially if you are doing so while chugging a home-made piña colada.

This is one of those comedies that orbits a single gag – the zinger being that the 1970s were rampantly boorish and misogynistic and that poor Tony Mammoth cannot get his head around how much the world has changed. It’s a good joke. Or at least Bubbins makes it work through sheer commitment to the idea that few things are funnier than a middle-aged man in cocooned in corduroy swaggering around to groovelicious tunes.

Revived in the present day, Mammoth heads straight to his local boozer. He is shocked to learn his old drinking buddies are now in their 80s and no longer up for all-day benders (he is still capable of chugging a pint in 30 seconds).

Meanwhile, at school, he’s putting the kids through their paces. He soon dispenses with such namby-pamby concepts as workplace safety and encourages the children to thump lumps out of one another. “Badminton?,” Mammoth exclaims. “It’s a PE lesson, not a holiday at Pontins!”.

Still, a comedy cannot live on jokes about workplace sexism alone, and Mammoth has a human interest angle in the shape of Siân Gibson, who plays Mel Jones – one of the many mums exasperated by Mammoth’s elephantine boorishness.

The twist is that she turns out to have been the daughter he never knew who had – the result of one final canoodle in a ski chalet before that avalanche that swallowed him whole all those decades previously.

She is obviously not at all impressed. Then who would be upon discovering the father they believed long dead is actually a sexist bloke with a walrus moustache and a dress sense halfway between Studio 54 and The Sweeney?

Yet their conflict is folded deftly into the overarching sweetness of Mammoth, a giggle-fest that pokes fun at the decade that political correctness forgot and which flogs that gag half to death while somehow continuing to engage with the audience’s funny bone.

If you find the idea of a Ford Capris with a copper bronze finish innately hilarious, this is the comedy you’ve been waiting for since 1979.

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