LAST year's run of sitcom pilots on Channel 4 yielded the commissioning of The Kevin Bishop Show and the kids of School Of Comedy; yeah, thanks for nothing Comedy Showcase. This year's batch of hopeful half-hours bidding for a full series is off to a better start, however, with Campus – which, as it comes from the makers of Green Wing, has already been dubbed "Green Wing University".
It's also rather reminiscent of something else, too, with its goatee-bearded boss musing on race and disability from his Office and the clumsy flirtation between a dorky, buttoned-up accountant and a blonde accommodation officer. Hmm, I just can't think what, though …
Derivative it may be, but this pilot coped well with the constraints of having to get across all its characters and potential in one episode, with some genuinely funny moments. The standout was Joseph Millson's quite stunningly lazy English Literature lecturer and letch, who regards sleeping with his female students as a perk of the job and awards marks by randomly firing arrows at a target: a bullseye means they get a First. When a male student asks for help with an essay, he's told to go and Google it "and next time, be a girl".
Millson is great fun in this role, "a little bit Clooney, a little bit Basil Brush", as he describes himself. The nervous mathematics lecturer's bestselling book about the number zero – a neat twist on those which tell you more than you ever wanted to know about salt, or longitude, or cod – is also a clever idea, even though they've gone for the stereotype of a bespectacled, lovelorn woman with her hair in a bun; presumably in some episode she'd shake out her hair, take off her glasses and then short-sightedly walk into a tree.
But some of the other characters aren't quite there yet. Brent-alike vice-chancellor Jonty de Wolfe is meant to be ruthless and ego-crazed, but was played here by Andy Nyman as just a bit too over-the-top. Will Adamsdale, who won the Perrier Award for his inventive show Jackson's Way, seemed a little wasted as the hapless accountant. And the plot about paying the staff's salaries twice by mistake and being unable to work out how to get the money back didn't make much sense.
Still, that's fixable if they get a series and this was a promising set-up, with some funny lines and visual gags. The show might particularly appeal to students as it portrays the people in authority over them as more adolescent and clueless than they are.
By contrast, The Children Who Fought Hitler were older and wiser than their years. This thoughtful documentary told how some teenage pupils at the British Memorial School in Ypres, Belgium – expat children of the British gardeners tending the First World War war graves – were left behind in the panic and urgency of Dunkirk.
Raised with patriotic fervour, they threw themselves into the resistance effort, joining sabotage missions, hiding downed Allied pilots and, for one remarkable young woman who'd got out in time, being parachuted back to the area of her old school as part of the Special Operations Executive.
You would think that by now we would have heard every war story there was, but this was a fascinating new one, showing how the occupation touched even the youngest lives. You could only marvel at their courage and their adventures.