Anthony Preston (Nicholas Gleaves), Ian (Hugh Bonneville) and Siobhan (Jessica...

Anthony Preston (Nicholas Gleaves), Ian (Hugh Bonneville) and Siobhan (Jessica Hynes) in "Twenty Twelve." Credit: BBC


WHEN | WHERE First three episodes Thursday 9-11 p.m. on BBC America

REASON TO WATCH "The Office" meets the Olympics.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT You don't think Olympic Games stage themselves, do you? It takes a village of bureaucrats to raise the five-ring flag -- a village in which you'd not likely want to dwell.

As the 2012 London games' Head of Deliverance, Ian (Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey") must calmly corral the cats who head his subdivisions. His infrastructure head's (Karl Theobald, "Primeval") traffic avoidance designs tend to create more traffic. His sustainability chief (Amelia Bullmore, "State of Play") spends most of her time explaining what sustainability is. And his pushy brand consultant (Jessica Hynes, "Doctor Who") is unversed in the kind of "clear, unambiguous explanation" that Ian requests, "something that even Boris can grasp."

The mayor is due at the celebration of Thousand Day Day's winding of a clock ticking backward toward the approaching games, constructed by an attitudinal artist who can't explain the concept himself. There are also hopelessly-lost bus trips with 2016 Rio games representatives and unfortunate archaeological discoveries on arena construction sites -- all detailed docucomedy style a la "The Office," with handy narration by Doctor Who himself, David Tennant.

MY SAY Oh, hilarity! Bureaucrat-speak! Inept middle-managers! Translation mishaps! Brits mocking their boringness!


"Twenty Twelve" feels less like the year of the London games than the number of minutes each episode lasts. We've just seen this stuff too many times. Merely changing script specifics to Olympic references doesn't make it fresh.

And from the show's first moments, it begs comparison with Ricky Gervais' British original "Office," which can do "Twenty Twelve" no favors. The side glances and self-serving excuses are joined here by place, time and person-establishing narration that only feels intrusive.

On the plus side, scripts cleverly weave together plot threads that manage to merge in impressive ways by half-hour's end. Of course, admiration doesn't necessarily make things amusing.

BOTTOM LINE For Anglophiles only.


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