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Sunday 11 October 2015

Review: Dated and heavy-handed 'Vicious'

Posted in: Television
By Jay Bennie - 29th August 2013

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as Freddie and Stuart

Starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi
TV One
9.05pm Thursdays

TV One's new Thursday night comedy sitcom, Vicious, debuted tonight, featuring two much-loved elderly gay British masters of the stage and screen playing a couple of vicious old queens.

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi shouted, swished, carped and postured their way through a dated scenario and low-rent script that even the Carry On movies at their most jaded and mechanical would have sent back to the writers for a serious makeover.

Stereotypes can be funny but only if we warm to the characters. Or if they are counterpointed by a character or characters we can better identify with. For instance, the broad-brush characters in The Vicar of Dibley would be unbearably grating if they weren't counterpointed against the wry humanity of Geraldine and the sweet naivety of Alice. Hyacinth Bouquet is another comedy creation whose success relied on the lower-key and long-suffering fellow cast of more down to earth characters.

Around the young straight and slightly hunky Ash from the flat upstairs, Vicious stars McKellen and Jacobi as Freddie and Stuart, and Frances de la Tour as their man-hungry gal-pal, orbit in 'full steam ahead' mode. Neither the character of Ash nor the actor playing him, Iwan Rheon, have enough depth or weight to ground the excesses of the others.

With the result that the heavy-handed characterisations, mood and shallow one-note plot-line plodded on, underscored by predictable direction and bravura displays of eye-rolling, wrist flapping, 'teapot' gestures and lame one-liners. Example: After yet another spat Jacobi hasn't talked for several hours, apparently. When he finally says a few words McKellen proclaims (everything is proclaimed in this show): "She talks!" ...and the laugh track fairly shrieks with laughter.

This is the sort of cheap and tacky stuff only Are You Being Served and The Two Ronnies' camper sketches used to be able to just get away with.

Mercifully it's a short season of just six episodes, but worryingly it was announced just a few days ago that another series has been commissioned. Maybe it gets better.

- Jay Bennie

Jay Bennie - 29th August 2013

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