SARAH VINE'S My TV Week: It's a real cult hit!
SARAH VINE’S My TV Week: It’s a real cult hit!
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EVERYONE ELSE BURNS
MONDAY, CHANNEL 4
I love an offbeat comedy, and Simon Bird, star of this one, has made a career of it. He was superb in the iconic Inbetweeners, one of the best sitcoms of the Noughties which I watched open-mouthed, unaware then that I was witnessing my own future as the mother of teenagers.
After that he was Adam, aspiring musician and hapless pursuer of ‘females’ entirely indifferent to his charms in the equally iconic Friday Night Dinner.
He specialises in playing the kind of overbearing, pompous, un-self-aware male that drives one bonkers with irritation, but who at the end of the day you can’t help feeling quite fond of because fundamentally they’re not bad, just a bit useless.
That’s his role here. He plays David Lewis, stern family patriarch and wannabe Elder of an end-of-days cult in Manchester. Except, of course, he isn’t really.
Everyone Else Burns is a new offbeat comedy on Channel 4 which stars actor Simon Bird alongside Kate O’Flynn
His wife Fiona (Kate O’Flynn), like him a lifelong member of the order, is at the end of her marital tether, and his two children alternately fear and loathe (but mostly loathe) him. He’s like the David Brent of apocalyptic cult members: certain he’s destined for greatness but actually a sad, tragic clown.
If you like very British comedy with a warm heart, Sarah Vine wagers you will enjoy Everyone Else Burns
It’s a character that has long had pride of place in the history of British sitcom, from Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army to Basil in Fawlty Towers, and as such it’s both reassuringly familiar yet endlessly entertaining. The skill in playing such a role is to do so without making the audience also hate you, and Bird is a master at this.
It’s like his whole face and body, his mannerisms and movements, were designed specifically for that purpose. In the great tradition of sitcom antiheroes, he’s as loveable as he is loathsome, and that’s his brilliance.
The show opens with David waking his family up with news of the apocalypse. Terrified, the children follow him and Fiona to the middle of a field, only to discover that it was all a drill.
They respond with ill-disguised venom. Later, son Aaron (Harry Connor) – a talented artist and budding psychopath – draws a picture of him in an acid bath.
By contrast, David’s daughter Rachel, played by Amy James-Kelly, is adorable. Obedient, biddable, loyal to her mad parents.
The show opens with David waking his family up with news of the apocalypse. Terrified, the children follow him and Fiona to the middle of a field, only to discover that it was all a drill (pictured)
Much to her father’s horror, she is very bright, a straight-A student (‘how much time did you waste revising?’) with ambitions to go to uni and become a doctor instead of a compliant cult home-maker. She has a love interest who’s a former cult member, and a mentor in the form of her teacher Miss Simmons, played by the wonderful Lolly Adefope (Kitty in Ghosts, another one of my favourite British sitcoms).
If you like very British comedy with a warm heart, I’ll wager you will enjoy this. The cast is great, including Morgana Robinson and Kadiff Kirwan as antagonists and Arsher Ali as the shallow cult leader Elder Samson (‘Cover your mouth when you yawn because that’s how the devil gets in’), and the writing is sharp.
A cult show about a show cult? We’ll see.
TOO MUCH DRAMA, NOT ENOUGH SUSPENSE
WEDNESDAY, CHANNEL 5
He has one remaining child, a daughter, the exquisite and luminous Abbie (Poppy Gilbert, pictured, with Jason)
Psychological thrillers are all at sea at the moment, what with Amazon Prime’s The Rig and now this, set in a fishing community in Cornwall. Jason Watkins – one of TV’s most ubiquitous actors, and deservedly so – stars as Ed, a gruff Cornish fisherman struggling with impending financial ruin, living at his mother-in-law’s and nursing a deep-seated trauma over the drowning of his son.
He has one remaining child, a daughter, the exquisite and luminous Abbie (Poppy Gilbert) who, to his ill-disguised horror, has taken up with dark-haired cad Ryan (Aneurin Barnard), who talks a good game but seems rather… well, fishy.
The atmosphere is tense – perhaps a little too tense. There’s a fine line between creating a sense of latent menace, and just appearing a bit melodramatic.
This leans slightly too much towards the latter, and despite the excellent cast (Cathy Belton is also great as Claire, Ed’s wife) the characters feel a touch cliched. Abbie is almost too perfect, Ryan is almost too caddish, Claire too saintly, Ed too unhinged, and the plot runs ahead of itself.
In the end, a little too much drama and not enough suspense for me, I’m afraid.
Has Love Island run its course?
Maya Jama, the newest Love Island presenter, pictured at the villa for the latest season currently on ITV2
Love Island is back (daily, ITV2) and just as brainless as ever, only now we have two series a year to look forward to.
That said, I fear ITV2 may have overstretched itself in this respect: even my daughter, an avid fan, is already bored, and the new presenter, Maya Jama, is slightly confusing in that she’s almost indistinguishable from the female contestants, who all look like they might share the same plastic surgeon.
Could the show have run its tawdry course? We can only hope.
- Full disclosure: I like Grayson Perry. I’ve met him a few times and he’s an incredibly interesting and engaging man, and that rare thing in the art world – someone who is genuinely open-minded and curious. He’s a great observer and collector of people and ideas, just as comfortable in an East End pub as he is dining at Claridge’s. Grayson Perry’s Full English (Thursday, Channel 4) is England seen through his eyes, an exploration of identity in all its many forms. Definitely worth a detour.
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