Vicious (ITV) - TV review
Old luvvies act with gay abandon in a classic festive sitcom
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Sunday 29 December 2013
Giving new meaning to the phrase “as camp as Christmas”, ITV’s sitcom Vicious returned to our screens on Friday for a one-off seasonal special; a second series will follow in 2014. True, it stars two theatre luvvies – Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as an aging gay couple – but the camp humour of Vicious mostly derives from the old-fashioned sitcom format, not the characters’ sexuality.
Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi) were having Christmas Day at the flat, surrounded by their alternative family; the lascivious Violet (Frances de la Tour) the scatterbrained Penelope (Marcia Warren), and their heterosexual neighbour, Ash (Iwan Rheon). Ash offered to cook the turkey dinner – cue the traditional slapstick kitchen disaster.
That still left plenty of time for some caustic put-downs, for Stuart to drop a bombshell about his sexual past, and for Freddie to boast about his challenging new acting role – as a department store Father Christmas. “He’s a three-dimensional person,” he said, projecting to the cheap seats. “I can’t just play him like Father Christmas. I’ve got to play the truth!”
Perhaps that’s more than can be said for the characterisation in Vicious, but I’m inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. Co-creator Gary Janetti also worked on Will & Grace, the first US prime-time series to feature openly gay lead characters and according to the American vice president, no less, that show “did more to educate the American public [on LGBT rights] than almost anything”. By this measure, the fact that Vicious’s style of comedy is so old-fashioned might be its greatest strength. If Vicious didn’t occasionally deal in easy stereotypes, it wouldn’t be a widely-watched, primetime British sitcom now, would it?
As with Citizen Khan, the BBC’s comedy about a Muslim family in Birmingham, Vicious’s problem isn’t a lack of political correctness, it’s that it features as lead characters members of a group who are usually starved of any screen time. Thus the weight of expectation is much greater than any lightweight primetime sitcom could reasonably support. No one complained that Victor Meldrew was an old white-man stereotype. McKellen has promised Radio Times he’ll tone it down in series two, but I hope they don’t start behaving themselves entirely. Hearing Freddie call Penelope “a huge slag”, was the highlight of my evening.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Double chins could be 'cured' without surgery or dieting using new injection
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Christian blogger says she will not wear leggings in public because they entice men and cause them to look at her 'lustfully'
- 5 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Blink-182 split: Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful' say Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia