Ive been a huge fan of Spencer Jones’ for a few years now, his live shows highlight his astonishingly inventive and gloriously silly mind, and his sitcom The Mind of Herbert Clunkerdunk was a deliciously ridiculous piece of madness. Co-star Lucy Pearman is also all kinds of fantastic too, with her 2019 show Baggage making my top 10 list of best gigs of the year along with Jones’s, and so my expectations for this series were relatively high, though they were tempered a little by the fact that Jones nor Pearman were involved in the creation of the show, with the script by long time Russell Brand radio producer Matt Morgan.
It’s the first show Morgan’s solely created that’ s made it to air but he has written episodes of Murder In Successville, Plebs, and Morgana Robinson’s The Agency among other series, some of which have been amusing, but none of which I’ve loved. And sadly Mister Winner falls in to that category as well, it’s fine, sometimes amusing, hey, it even made me laugh twice, but it can’t help but seem like something of a disappointment.
The idea is that despite being called Mister (Leslie) Winner, he’s a little unlucky in life, or at least a bit misguided in his choices, and that becomes immediately apparent when while as part of his job as a furniture removal man he spots a dusty old piano and thinks he can make a profit from it. His boss Chris (Shaun Williamson) is sceptical in the extreme and it’s quickly apparent that he was right to be so when various shops turn Leslie down, but after discovering it’s a player piano (ie a self playing piano) he manages to persuade an Italian restaurant to employ him there.
You can probably guess what follows as Leslie has to fake playing the piano night after night, and he’s not exactly the most convincing musician in the world with a waitress soon cottoning on to his scam, but it’s quite surprising how little comic mileage the script gets out of the idea. There’s some vaguely fun physical comedy with Leslie playing the piano badly and one sort of amusing bit when a customer asks him to play “My Girl” as it’s his dead mother’s birthday and her favourite song, but it’s the wrong one and he’s forced to mime along to the Madness version rather than the one by The Temptations, while an exchange between Leslie and the waitress about his favourite piano players made me briefly chuckle (with Elton John and Ralph from The Muppets being the main two), but the majority of the show while perfectly agreeable is rarely that funny.
When everything inevitably goes wrong it’s done so in a predictable manner, and given both Jones’ and Pearman’s skills as physical comedians / clowns it feels like an enormous waste of their talents. Also while it’s well directed it oddly looks faded and washed out, like the wrong filter has been placed on the camera so everything looks a little dreary, grey and drab, a decision I can’t understand in the slightest as it makes it look rather unappealing and doesn’t suit this style of humour at all.
Given how much of a fan I am of Spencer and Pearman I will watch at least one more episode, but if it wasn’t for the talented cast then I’m not sure I’d bother. I just hope this is a gentle, slow introduction to the characters and it really ramps up a few gears and becomes far more inventive and inspired, as otherwise it’s going to come across as a real oddity in the way it contains so much potential but fails to deliver upon it.
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You can watch Mister Winner on BBC iPlayer here.