Pompidou, TV review: Silent comedy has a few surprises, but Matt Lucas is no Mr Bean

I’m not sure that this show (appropriately in a 6.30pm timeslot) will appeal to anyone over 10

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The Independent Culture

When someone says “visual comedy”,  I think of Mr Bean. I picture Rowan Atkinson’s rubber-faced, almost mute protagonist, going all-in, corporeally speaking, for laughs; contorting his Y-front-clad body to get a TV aerial to work, say. Bean, sold to 94 countries, is a hard act to follow. Going on this first episode of Pompidou, Matt Lucas’s show in the same genre, Atkinson’s crown is safe.

Like Bean, Pompidou is aimed at a family and international audience (gibberish needs no translation). But unlike Atkinson’s solitary character, Lucas’s troika is made up of a childlike aristocrat-fallen-on-hard-times, Pompidou, his loyal butler, Hove (The Thick of It’s Alex MacQueen) and their haughty Afghan hound, Marion. The three live in a dilapidated caravan on the crumbling Pompidou estate with the action revolving around the trio attempting to solve mundane problems. In the opening episode, it was a lack of food.

Visual comedy relies on physicality rather than dialogue. Another image: Bean writhing against a hand dryer in a public loo to dry his crotch. The less agile Lucas (who writes and co-directs) and his team had to try harder. You got visible thought bubbles to move the story along and there were other original absurd touches – Hove swallowing a talking bird that we later saw pecking at his bones on an X-ray machine or Pompidou diving into Hove’s sliced-open body to retrieve a watch – but it felt forced.

As Pompidou posed as a patient to dupe nurses into feeding him, it was impossible not to get shades of Lucas’ Little Britain character, Andy, who pretends to be wheelchair-bound to outwit the world for his own means. But without his talking sidekick Lou, the schtick was less funny.

There were occasional surprising moments – the doctor listening to Pompidou’s chest and hearing his favourite radio tune followed by the football commentary, for example. But many of the antics reminded me of children’s TV. Apt, given I’m not sure that this show (appropriately in a 6.30pm timeslot) will appeal to anyone over 10.