Category Archives: ‘Vicious’

‘Vicious’ Review

Two things struck me while watching the first of ITV’s new comedy shows, Vicious, on Monday night. Firstly, shouldn’t studio sitcoms be left to the BBC (but please not Ben Elton!) and secondly, hasn’t Frances De La Tour started to look like Janet Street-Porter?

Actually, no, I tell a lie – three things struck me during the time I endured Vicious, for I also considered how overwhelming the urge was to switch over to Crimewatch. It would have been more of a laugh, that’s for sure.

A GREAT CAST

From Round the Horne’s Polari-speaking Julian & Sandy, to Grace Brothers’ ‘Free!’ Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served? and Gimme Gimme Gimme’s deluded Thomas Thessalonius Farrell, gay characters (whether they be ‘out’ or not) have been integral to British comedy for many years but Vicious is the first sitcom to feature an aged gay couple as its protagonists.

Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi play Freddie and Stuart, respectively, who, having been together for over four decades, constantly bicker in their Covent Garden flat. Their life together is often punctuated by their friends – from the feisty Violet (Frances De La Tour) to simple Penelope and moody Mason. Oh, and let’s not forget their handsome neighbour, Ash (played by Misfits’ Iwan Rheon), who has just moved in and looks set to be the cause of yet more squabbles for the septuagenarian duo.

The cast is something which I cannot fault. They were all brilliant, especially Derek Jacobi, and all did their best with the disappointingly weak script they were given.

THIN ON LAUGHS’

Prior to watching Vicious, I had read many articles in which critics expressed their fondness of it. They didn’t rave about it, but they undoubtedly liked it. However, I am glad to find that many articles have been published today which point out quite how thin on laughs it was (although I find Benjamin Secher’s article for The Telegraph more than a little harsh – this isn’t ‘the least funny new comedy in recent memory’. Tune into BBC1 at 10:35 on Tuesdays to see that).

The mother-in-law gags became tiresome the moment McKellen uttered the first, the ambushing of Ash was so predictable and the laughter-track was embarrassing. That’s assuming it was a laughter-track. It could be that the audience were just high when they entered ITV Studios that night. I’ve no doubt it would have made the recording a lot more bearable.

THE QUEENS

It wasn’t just the poor ‘jokes’ and overbearing laughter which made Vicious such a slog: its uber camp central characters were as much to blame. In fact, my heart sank when I watched the trailers for this show and saw that McKellen and Jacobi were playing stereotypically catty (as I gauged from the title, admittedly), mincing queens. Freddie and Stuart really are your archetypal ‘queens’ – and that’s a word I seldom use, owing to my hatred of it. To me, a ‘queen’ is some narcissist, some egotistical fool who espouses scathing comments purely to get herself noticed while she runs around, screaming her tits off about her sexuality. To me, ‘queen’ makes gay men synonymous with grandiose women – something which the majority, surely, are not. Freddie and Stuart are ‘queens’, though (Vicious’ working title was ‘Vicious Old Queens’). They may not have been quite as extravagant as my perception of a ‘queen’ but did make me want to scream that I want to see less stereotypical gays on TV!

Of course, there is a reason why the quartet of characters which I mentioned in the third paragraph of this review are famous for their camp demeanours. It’s because camp is funny and camp exists. There’s no getting away from it. But when are more writers and directors going to push themselves to create more gay characters on TV who don’t conform to stereotypes? Don’t get me wrong, it’s been done before: Rob and Michael in Agony; Jason in Gavin & Stacey; to an extent, The Vicar of Dibley’s Frank; and, more recently, Sara in Sue Perkins’s Heading Out are all clearly gay but don’t have to rely on being effeminate (or, in the latter’s case, masculine) to get laughs. I honestly struggle to think of much more than a few comedy characters to add to that list but I could go on and on about how many OTT people have been, and currently are in, sitcoms.

How long will we have to wait to escape the predictable image of homosexuality?

So, just in case you haven’t yet got the gist of my review, let me put it plainly: I didn’t like Vicious. I might generously call the subject matter ‘ground breaking’ but am certain that the content was not. Would a sitcom with such a predictable script about a heterosexual couple have been commissioned, I ask myself.

Vicious is on Mondays at 9:00pm on ITV

What did you think of Vicious? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

 

TV Highlights (27th April – 3rd May)

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV.

Saturday 27th April

Young Margaret: Life, Love & Letters

BBC2, 9:00pm

I hate to break it to you but Margaret Thatcher died this month.

Based on Charles Moore’s biography of the former Prime Minister (which was published on Tuesday!), Young Margaret: Life, Love & Letters includes unique, insightful interviews with some of the people closest to her: including her son, Mark Thatcher.

As the title suggests, the ninety-minute-long documentary focuses on Baroness Thatcher’s formative years – specifically those spent at Oxford, when she regularly sent letters to her sister Muriel, whom she was very close to. These letters will be revealed during the programme and offer a rare insight into Thatcher’s softer side as they detail her relationship with Tony Bray, who also features.

Recently, we have been bombarded with documentaries about Margaret Thatcher but none seem to have promised such a unique, personal vision as Young Margaret.

Also today: Britain’s Got Talent (ITV, 7:00pm) and The Voice UK (BBC1, 8:05pm) both rumble on.

Sunday 28th April

Rupert Murdoch: Battle with Britain 

BBC2, 9:00pm

In this one-off documentary, Steve Hewlett looks beyond the villainous image we have of News International’s Rupert Murdoch and instead considers how he has changed Britain – and British media – over the past 45 years.

Hewlett will delve into how Murdoch managed, in 1968, to double the failing Sun newspaper’s readership within just 100 days, as well as his controversial purchase of The Times in 1981, the launch of Sky TV in 1989 and the infamous phone-hacking scandal of 2011, which changed UK journalism dramatically.

Also today: Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero concludes with a trip to Indonesia (BBC2, 8:00pm); the last in the series of The Secret Millions sees stylist Gok Wan try to turn around more young people’s lives (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Henry McKean investigates The Truth About Travellers (Channel 5, 9:00pm); and Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith co-host The Olivier Awards (ITV, 10:15pm).

Monday 29th April

Vicious

ITV, 9:00pm

It has been promoted within an inch of its life – and what I’ve seen doesn’t look much better than Ben Elton’s embarrassing The Wright Way. Then again, Sirs Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen, Frances De La Tour and the writer of Family Guy and Will & Grace can’t be wrong, can they? Can they? I hope not.

Vicious is a very traditional studio sitcom which centres around two aged gay men who have been in a relationship for nearly fifty years. Constantly popping in and interrupting Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi) are their friends: the feisty Violet (De La Tour), the befuddled Penelope (Marcia Warren) and moody Mason (Phillip Voss).

A source for one of Freddie and Stuart’s many arguments is their new handsome neighbour, Ash (Misfits’ Iwan Rheon) who looks set to change the dynamics of the couple’s relationship.

The Job Lot

ITV, 9:30pm

Yes, filling the gap left by Broadchurch are not one, but two comedies. While Vicious takes up the first 30 minute slot, The Job Lot is covering the remaining half-an-hour.

The Job Lot, as you’ve probably gauged from the copious number of trailers, is set in a West Midlands job centre and shows the relationships between the employed (those working in the centre) and the unemployed (those working…nowhere).

Russell Tovey (Being Human, Him & Her) and Sarah Hadland (Miranda) are heading the cast as the reluctant Karl and unstable Trish. However, those aren’t the only two big names which The Job Lot boasts – Jo Enright is playing Angela while Benidorm’s Tony Maudsley is the optimistic Graham and Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera is the deluded Bryony.

Also today: Kirsty Young presents another Crimewatch (BBC1, 9:00pm); Irish comedian Dave Allen’s life and career is detailed in Dave Allen: God’s Own Comedian (BBC2, 9:00pm); and go behind the scenes of the home of everyone’s favourite Steak Bake – fly-on-the-wall documentary Greggs: More Than Meats the Pie begins on Sky1 at 9:00pm.

Tuesday 30th April

Sweat the Small Stuff

BBC3, 10:00pm 4073093-low-sweat-the-small-stuff

Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw (who wished me luck for my Drama exam on Wednesday – thanks, Grimmy!) is joined by Kiss FM’s Ricky & Melvin and Rochelle Humes from The Saturdays for this brand-new panel show, which ‘makes a big deal about the little things in life’.

So, you can expect to hear about people’s anxieties surrounding stuff such as forgetting someone’s name and the appropriate ways to greet people. It’s all just harmless fun, really – I expect fans of Unzipped or Grimmy’s Breakfast Show would enjoy it. That’s me, then!

If you want to join in the conversation about Sweat the Small Stuff, you can tweet @BBCSweat and use #SweatingIt.

Also today: You can be brave and return to Ben Elton’s horrifically poor The Wright Way (BBC1, 10:35pm) for an episode called ‘Conkers Bonkers’. Haha! That title’s so funny…

Wednesday 1st May

All Star Mr & Mrs

ITV, 8:00pm

Phillip Schofield hosts another series of All Star Mr & Mrs, the show which sees celebrity couples being tested on how well they know each other.

To kick off the new series, Corrie’s Julie Hesmondhalgh, Dave Myers (one half of the Hairy Bikers) and McFly’s Tom Fletcher are all being quizzed with their partners.

Also today: Watchdog is back on BBC1 at 8:00pm; comedian Dara O Briain begins another term at his School of Hard Sums (Dave, 8:00pm); GOLD are bravely airing the first series of Mrs Brown’s Boys at 9:00pm; and hopefully the obnoxious Katie Hopkins won’t have been invited back for the second episode of 10 O’Clock Live (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Thursday 2nd May 

The Repo Man

Channel 4, 9:00pm Sean James TBP4097F

This two-part documentary series follows the work of Sean James and his team of bailiffs.

The no-nonsense Sean is regularly faced with challenging, equally no-nonsense ‘targets’, but is invariably the victor and succeeds in repossessing their belongings on the behalf of finance companies. It is these people who we will meet, along with Sean and his team, across the two episodes.

Also today: I lost interest a while ago but if you’re still a fan, Waterloo Road is back on BBC1 at 8:00pm; and Clare Balding guest stars in hit/miss but likeable sketch show Watson & Oliver (BBC2, 10:00pm).

Friday 3rd May

Would I Lie to You?

BBC1, 8:30pm

Essentially, Would I Lie to You? is little more than a parlour game. A bunch of people sitting round, exchanging anecdotes, the authenticity of which the other players decide on. That’s it. However, it is4031612-low-would-i-lie-to-you the quick-witted panellists, armed with hard-to-believe stories which make the show the (British Comedy Award) winner that it is.

This week, joining host Rob Brydon and brilliant team captains Lee Mack and David Mitchell are Dara O Briain, Rhod Gilbert, Vernon Kay and Denise Van Outen.

Also today: Eddie Stobart: Trucks and Trailers returns to Channel 5 at 8:00pm; Mel Giedroyc hosts Have I Got News For You (BBC1, 9:00pm); Geraldine James stars in docu-drama, The Genius of Marie Curie: The Woman Who Lit up the World (BBC2, 9:00pm); The Ice Cream Girls concludes on ITV (9:00pm); Sir Bruce Forsyth and Little Mix pop in for Alan Carr: Chatty Man (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and Benedict Cumberbatch, Kim Cattrall and Eurovision hopeful Bonnie Tyler are on Eurovision host Graham Norton’s show (BBC1, 10:35pm) – not that’s he’s biased or anything…

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

I just want to take this opportunity to raise awareness for Alex Neal.

Alex is seventeen-years-old and a fellow student of mine at Sunderland College. She has a very rare bone tumour, called chondrosarcoma, which is growing around her brain and has already affected her eyesight and hormone levels, meaning she will have to rely on HRT for the rest of her life.

This tumour cannot be treated in the UK. Therefore, Alex must travel to Florida to have it treated there. The NHS have agreed to fund her visit – but only with one parent accompanying her.

£5,000 is needed to send both of Alex’s parents to Florida with her for this urgent treatment. At the time of writing, an incredible £1,005 has been raised but her family need more and have been campaigning by holding ‘Action 4 Alex’ car boot sales, cake sales and selling wristbands.

Any money would be greatly appreciated by Alex’s family. Even spreading the word and encouraging others to get involved would, I’m sure, be greatly appreciated.

You can join the ‘Action 4 Alex’ campaign on Facebook or go directly to her auntie’s Go Fund Me page to donate.

Thank you.