Mar 9, 2014

[TV] Vicious: Series 1

There's a quirk to British humor that I always find hard to perfectly explain. Is it all the deadpan delivery? Is it the innate snarkiness that seems to be stereotypical of the British people? Or maybe it's all about the overall wit that's often present in the writing that seems all the more subtle against everything else.

But I learned to love it early on and Vicious is pretty much the amazing evolution of the genre when you liberally mix in both gay jokes and old people jokes. It doesn't sound like something should work on paper, but in reality it was pretty hilarious. Sure, it's not quite Miranda, but it's not quite in the same genre either. And it just bloody works.

I was laughing so hard while watching all 7 episodes - and yes we ended up watching it all in one go. There's just something about these types of shows that just really gets me. I'm definitely all the better for it. And man, this is such an amazing gathering of talent, many of whom have had rather memorable roles in genre entertainment.

Synopsis:Vicious is an ITV sitcom created by Gary Janetti and Mark Ravenhill. The show debuted in 2013 and has already been confirmed for a second series for later this year. The show only has 6 episodes plus a Christmas special, as is the way of such British sitcoms. But it's practically non-stop laughs when you can get the joke.

At the center of the show are the older same-sex partners Freddie (Ian McKellen) and Stuart (Derek Jacobi). Two have been partners for almost 50 years now and have settled into a strange relationship that involves constantly exchanging verbal barbs with one another. Freddie was a bit of an actor in his day and now he struggles to get bit roles in random television shows. Stuart used to work as a waiter and now he's pretty much settled into retirement.

At the start of the show, Freddie and Stuart meet Ash (Iwan Rheon), who is their new neighbor, who has just moved into the flat upstairs. Naturally both are rather attracted to him and it feels like the first episode is pretty much dedicated to figuring out whether he's straight or not. Other regular characters include Violet (Frances de la Tour), who is a close friend of the couple and has been tragically single for most of her life, thus she's often eager to flirt with just about anyone who comes along. Penelope (Marcia Warren) is another friend and her quirk involves her failing memory. Lastly there's Mason (Philip Voss), who seems to be just as disagreeable as Freedie and Stuart seem to be.

At first it seems nearly impossible for how Freddie and Stuart have lasted as long as they have. They seem to be constantly at one another's throats and are loathe to admit even the smallest amount of affections for one another. But as the show progresses, we still get to see those little moments when the depth of their love is revealed, although it requires a lot of effort to read the deeply into their actions.

Like a lot of other British sitcoms (think Keeping Up Appearances), there are a lot of running gags that make up a fair amount of the humor in the series. For example, Stuart repeatedly introduces Ash and Violet to one another as if they had never met before. In turn, Violet always tries to find a way to take advantage of Ash by groping him or figuring out some circumstance to get him shirtless or something - and not, this doesn't happen as much as some of you Misfits fan may want. Then there's Freddie and Stuart's constant insults going to and fro, but that's probably not an actual running gag but more like an essential aspect to the show's distinct flavor and feel.

To be fair, this is British television, so it's a lot more glib given the watershed hours. So yes, there's a fair amount of cursing thrown into the dialog but not enough to turn this into an HBO original drama series or something like that. There's some oblique references to sexual activity, but nothing that warrants PG-13 folks or something.

Vicious is a delightful new sitcom and I'm totally glad that Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi agreed to perform in this series. And there's a bit of fun for the Doctor Who fans in the room, if you keep your fob watch handy. I'm more than happy to rate this as 5 trips to Argentina out of a possible 5.

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