I am about to do something risky; something that could open me up to abuse and ridicule. I am going to review a comedy.
This may not seem so perilous but I would argue that it is much more difficult to offer your judgement on a comedy than it is a drama. With comedy it comes down to a finely honed personal sense of humour. What do I find funny and did the show in question, ITV2’s Plebs, manage to make me laugh? A few weeks ago I felt the need to say something about Derek; it had reached the point where my minor frustrations bubbled to the surface and I wanted to explain why I was done with the show. There was a lot of support for my view but I also got the following comment:
Derek is fantastic, maybe you like Mrs Browns Boys or Gavin & Stacey if so you should still to that comedy as Derek is clearly too intelligent for someone like you.
My only problem with this reaction was that they had not given an explanation of why they liked Derek and instead just called me stupid. I’m not stupid but that doesn’t dictate what I find funny. I “get” most jokes but some shows just don’t make you laugh and that’s that. I can only offer my opinion on a show and I can’t guarantee that you will agree. I say all this because I am about to say that I like a comedy called Plebs on ITV2 and don’t want you to think less of me.
Plebs follows two young men (Tom Rosenthal and Joel Fry) in Ancient Rome who live with their slave (Ryan Sampson), work in an office under a formidable female boss (Doon Mackichan), and generally try to get laid. If set in London in 2013 this would be a show we’ve all seen a thousand times before (minus the slave possibly) and would be lost in a sea of Inbetweeners rip-offs. With the focus shifted to Ancient Rome a fresh component has been added to the regular formula of pathetic guys looking for
Ancient Rome is a place of orgies and gladiators, slaves and togas. Sex and murder are commonplace and a trip to the stadium is more likely to involve a beheading than a header. Throw in a comedy style reminiscent of Friday Night Dinners and The Inbetweeners (so Simon Bird essentially) and something genuinely funny is formed.
I saw Plebs in a screening room filled with critics and the cast and we all laughed throughout (especially Sophie Colquhoun). Tom Rosenthal came out of nowhere and impressed in Friday Night Dinners, with Plebs he continues to showcase his natural comedy chops. Ryan Sampson is wonderfully dense as slave Grumio and Doon Mackichan is her usual fantastic self as Flavia. The real highlight for me was Tom Basden in a small role as Aurelius; a proud water boy who resents the leads with their slightly better jobs as shredder and copier.
The first two episodes deal with an attempt to attend an orgy and the arrival of a (occasional naked) gladiator played by an unusually effective Danny Dyer. I’m not saying that Plebs is the height of sophistication, far from it, but it got a good belly laugh out of me despite my initial prejudices.
Will you like Plebs? I have no idea but I liked it and I am not stupid.
Plebs starts on ITV2 tonight at 10pm