‘Vicious’ – Series 1, episode 2
I think we can allow a period of grace for any new sitcom. First episodes are very often a little dull as characters bed in and the scene is set.
No such charity for this one then. Episode 2. Will they kiss? Will Sir Derek’s limbs become so flappy they spin off like helicopter blades, fly across London and slap the bearded bears outside the Admiral Duncan? Will Frances de la Tour say something genuinely funny? We shall find out…
Sir Derek’s on the phone to mother again, gripping the handset and wafting it around. It’s a wonder he can keep it up. Ah yes and Sir Ian’s appeared at the top of the stairs like a cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Nosferatu. They sit at the sofa and bitch. Oh they come so close to being funny. The bitching… the pause… the cutting put-down. But the put-downs just… aren’t. If these two were vets, no dog would ever die.
The doorbell. Are we noticing a pattern here? I suspect it’ll be pan-face again. Ah, yes there he is. Ash. Nice pecs in that T-shirt though. Has he suddenly lost weight? His hair hasn’t. Hair that big should not be allowed on terrestrial television.
The doorbell again. Frances perhaps? Will she say something floaty before wafting her way to pan-face and yawning out some tired sexually-suggestive remark? Wait… wait… yes. Oh dear. A comedy should not be quite so predictable this early on.
Sir Ian finally made me laugh. “Ash was just about to tell us about this drug addicted slag who’s broken his heart…”. Yes, yes, yes. A line that clicks. The dialogue needs more pepper in it. It’s been too bland to work. A little more brutality and the programme could lift. Frances can be more filthy, Sir Derek more prissy and Sir Ian more bitter.
I got it wrong about which episode my boyfriend watched live. It was this one. He assures me the laughter was less encouraging during filming. It took three hours apparently, largely because the old queens hadn’t managed to learn their lines. Though apparently, even the fluffing seemed somehow contrived. As though they were losing their way on purpose. Apparently this episode sought to disappoint and frustrate its live audience as much as it did its television viewers. Still, I’m told the shop assistants in the next scene are handsome.
We have made it to the shop. At least we are out of the flat. I wondered whether this would be a single-set sitcom. If the script were stronger that would have been fantastic. A tiny, claustrophobic pressure-cooker of bitchiness. A den. As it stands, this small escape was overdue.
Suddenly the characters seem more vivid. The more mundane, modern, bleached setting makes them pop! So much funnier all of a sudden. They are at odds, rather than being cossetted away in their own padded closet. I hope they venture out more. Ah… and it’s over too soon!
Back in the den. The fantastic elderly woman, Penelope, is back. Thank you to those who somewhat smugly pointed out that she is a well-known and very highly-respected actress. Having done my research I feel ashamed not to have recognised her instantly from such classics as Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas. How remiss of me. She is bloody wonderful though. She ought to be the main character. I suspect we have a Homer Simpson, Karen and Jack, Roger the Alien situation. If this makes it to a second series, she will doubtless be the jewel in the sash. We could stick Frances under a bus to make room. It would be a blessing for the programme and a relief for crushed velvet everywhere.
The doorbell again. Ash is back. This episode does feel a little plodding, mincing through the set pieces with an arthritic hip.
Back to the shop! That Penelope really is fantastic. I love her. I suspect this is the beginning of a long and very loving relationship. Applause applause!
The problem with the two main characters, Freddie and Stuart is that they really don’t talk in anything other than catty comments. There’s no relationship at all. If we just saw them showing one another some tenderness or even a vaguely ordinary conversation, then the snippy remarks would achieve much greater impact.
Oh my goodness, my eyes just fell out! They shared a kind moment! And… they kissed! A mumsy kiss but still…sweet. Ah well then, it took all of two episodes but finally we are able to invest a little in this pair of old prunes.
It’s back to the bitching at the very end but now it sits more comfortably. It’s still somewhat lacklustre but now perhaps, with a little charm and a little more acid, it might just make it.
Follow Andy on Twitter @andywestradio
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter