TV Talk: Famalam

I did the TV Time so you don’t have to, this is my review of Famalam Series 3

Image Credits: BBC Three - Fair use image for purposes of comment and/or criticism

Like the vast majority of us, I am still spending the majority of my time at home; with television being one of my main sources of entertainment. I went into my next binge-watch session knowing exactly what my requirements were: Black-lead, comical, each episode approximately 30 minutes long, all episodes available at once, positive, satire and sketch-based. I began my search closer to home (the UK) and found a show that I had seen trending on my timeline - Famalam. Once I saw the title page of the first episode of Series 3 (2020), I remembered that I had watched 2 minutes of the pilot episode in 2017. However, it did not engage with me as a Black British woman of Caribbean descent at the time at all! However, I decided I would watch the whole series and go into this binge-watch session with an open mind; to be able to give an honest review.


This was 112 minutes of my life that I will never get back! I had to force myself to make it past episode one. I found Famalam to be a disgraceful, stereotype enforcing, poor man's attempt at a modern-day The Real McCoy. It is very much a pigeonhole comedy i.e. this is what “we” think Black people like, want, and / or find funny. I cannot pretend that the ‘Drill-o-gram’ sketch was not ingenious, memorable, and made me laugh out loud. However, the fact that there were only 1:36 minutes that I categorically found comical, positively remembered, and think has scope to become an actual ‘thing’ says a lot!


I’m not an individual who is squeamish or uncomfortable with genitalia or themes of a sexual nature, yet I found the ‘Jamaican Countdown’ sketch to be distasteful, negatively stereotypical, unfunny, male gaze perpetuating trash. The sketch uses a penis of considerable size - that which we call “a big dick / enormous shlong / ding-a-ling / mandingo / okó tobi” by any other name - as the hand of the famous countdown clock, while 3 “Jamaican” contestants unsuccessfully attempt to play the game show. I’m not sure whether it’s due to my continued frustration that Jamaican / Caribbean individuals are deemed less intelligent than their counterparts, but I found this sketch to be the worst of them all. The sketch excessively mocked the negative stereotypes to the point that it enforced the false narrative of inferior intelligence, over-sexualisation, excessive drug use, Black men having large appendages, and illiteracy - as opposed to understanding the linguistic legacy of Patoïs (Patwah).


I see where the show intended to go with an almost all Black lead cast, poking fun at different Black and ethnic minority groups and focusing on community-based stereotypes and outside stereotypes. However, the show simply just didn't deliver and missed the mark. It’s a shame as I enjoy British television when it’s at its finest, and I wanted Famalam to deliver as it contains a talented cast of comedy legends in the making and is presented as “for Black People”. Yet the show seeks to appease white audiences instead. In my opinion, Tom Marshall, Akemnji Ndifornyen, Ben Caudell, Yasmin Wayne, etc. had the elements of a show with savvy, wherewithal, and scope but sadly not the correct formula.


Although Famalam was not my cup of tea, I was thankfully rescued by a binge-worthy show that fulfilled my initial requirements - A Black Lady Sketch Show. This hilarious six-episode sketch narrative programme is set in a dystopian reality and headed by a talented core Black female cast. The usual rules of television are flipped as the whole series occurs without a single White person appearing (not even as an extra!). I highly recommend you check out the Issa Rae and Robin Thede triumph on HBO or Now TV.