It’s been a while since there’s been a good romp on British TV: not a gritty drama, nor a silly reality show obliging you to turn off your brain, but an entertaining comedy drama.
The Wrong Mans Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
The IT Crowd
Friday, Channel 4, 9pm
Marvel’s Agents Of Shield
Friday, Channel 4, 8pm
Just as the weather turns rotten, here’s The Wrong Mans, a bit of fun with a smart enough script and some actual jokes.
It’s about two hapless chaps who get completely out of their depth in a Hitchcockian adventure with kidnappers, spies and gangsters. Nervous council employee Phil (played endearingly by Mathew Baynton of Horrible Histories) witnesses a car crash, picks up the victim’s phone and gets mistaken for someone else by bad guys. His brash colleague Sam insists they “roll deep” and play things out.
It co-stars and is co-written by James Corden … wait, did I lose you there? I know: Corden is a divisive figure, who became so ubiquitous a few years ago that the very sight of his grinning face – shouting about his celebrity pals, flirting with Lily Allen, singing the England football team song, showing off at award ceremonies, etc – could induce sheer rage in otherwise reasonable people. While he always had his fans, there were as many who saw him as a representation of everything grim about modern celebrity culture. But, after an apologetic autobiography, an award-winning theatre run and the forthcoming biopic about Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts, Corden seems to be clawing his way out of the backlash. And the sheer energy of this new six-part series indicates that he’s gone back to his strengths, co-writing himself a supporting part in an audience-pleasing entertainment, just as he did with Gavin And Stacey.
He is still, essentially, playing that Corden character that became so annoying, but the effect is lessened thanks to a strong plot, script and cast – full of familiar faces in cameo roles, presumably his celebrity pals.
Sitcom The IT Crowd returns for a one-off special which will most likely be its last ever (since Richard Ayoade is now a director and Chris O’Dowd is Hollywood’s most unlikely heartthrob), also has its fans. Despite repeated attempts, I’ve never managed to find it even the slightest bit amusing – its strained “aren’t geeks weird!” jokes and broad performances, accompanied by gales of studio audience laughter, just aren’t for me. But for those who have enjoyed the previous four series, the special offers more of the same, wisely keeping to the same basic premise (and basement) rather than sending them all on holiday or something.
Perhaps on the grounds that geeks also like comics, it follows Channel 4’s big budget import, Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, Joss Whedon’s return to TV with the spin-off from the Avengers movie. Unfortunately not available for preview in Scotland, presumably due to fears that the evil Baron Wolfgang von Strucker would immediately pirate the show, this aims to be the West Wing of superpowers, focusing on the backroom operatives who support the more flashy heroes. As with Whedon’s last few shows, it’s a great premise but whether it’s sustainable is another question.