There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it is throwback British sitcom stuff.
This week, I’m covering Vicious.
What’s the premise?
A long-standing elderly couple bicker heavily while having their cranky old friends over, as well as the nice young man who lives in the flat upstairs. Oh, and the couple are gay.
What’s the appeal?
That gay couple are played by Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, two highly skilled Shakespearean actors, at least one of whom should be familiar to Geeks everywhere since he’s been Magneto, Gandalf, and Sherlock Holmes. The other one made me sympathize with Claudius in Hamlet. That takes some real skill. He played a very different Claudius in the classic BBC mini-series I, Claudius. Geeks may also be interested in the nice young man, named Ash. He’s played by actor Iwan Rheon, best known for playing the exact opposite of Ash when he’s Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones.
Anything stand out?
Besides the cast?
Seriously, this cast is probably way too overqualified to be doing a three-camera sitcom.
McKellen probably should get some more props here. His character, Freddy, is an actor. As much as he makes a lot of noise about this, Freddy has not been an overly successful actor. His best known role was a villain for an episode of Doctor Who, and one episode deals with him being invited to a dinner to celebrate how he was voted 10th best villain by Doctor Who fans. McKellen’s natural gravitas means he’s also the master of the put down.
Jacobi’s no slouch either, but his character, Stuart, is more of a stereotypical gay man than anything else. The running gag for the first few episodes is that Stuart still has not told his nasty elderly mother he’s gay. He and Freddy have been together for 48 years.
Most episodes deal with Freddy, Stuart, and their various friends (man-eater Violet, forgetful Penelope, and Freddy’s cranky brother Mason) getting together to snipe at each other. Ash keeps coming over for some reason, despite the fact Violet and sometimes Freddy and Stuart flirt with him in ways that make him very uncomfortable. Really, the plot of any given episode seems to exist mostly to give the characters an excuse to snipe at each other.
The humor isn’t overly original. The strength of the cast makes the material better than it actually is. I have to wonder if getting such an overqualified group of actors together isn’t some sort of meta humor. The joke being it’s not the sniping you should be laughing at, but rather the fact that such great, recognizable actors are doing it is the real joke. McKellen especially seems to have a character that, in another world, could have actually been him.