Ever since The Great British Bake Off became an enormous smash hit Mel and Sue have been considered national treasures, unable to do no wrong, but I have to risk being put to death by admitting that I’ve never been a fan. That even applies to when they were student favourites back in the Light Lunch days, and made cameos on the likes of This Morning With Richard and Judy, sure they’ve vaguely amused me once or twice but that’s about as praiseworthy as I can get.
This is easily the best thing they’ve been involved with for my money then, it’s a weird old thing but surprisingly likeable, even if it is one of those sitcoms which is more than a little implausible. It follows two hitmen who work together, Fran (Sue Perkins) and Jamie (Mel Giedroyc), and most of the humour is derived from the duo discussing trivial nonsense while going about killing, with both having a very casual reaction to blood and gore.
In this opening episode Jamie wants to celebrate Fran’s birthday and because of their unconventional lives she’s been unable to get people to attend a party, especially after an incident the previous year involving a UV light and a substance showing up that they didn’t realise was actually blood. Also because they’re waiting for their employer to decide whether or not he wants them to kill a lawyer (Jason Watkins), they end up celebrating most of it in their van, though quite impressively it manages not to be in any way claustrophobic.
That’s partially because Jamie is doing her best to make sure Fran enjoys herself on her special day (with the lawyer also having a good time despite potentially being about to die), though as mentioned there are some slightly overly ridiculous and implausible elements as you have to wonder how they’ve managed to survive not being arrested over the years given that Jamie’s a little on the stupid side (or if we’re to be kind, just plain daft) as she orders a stripper for Fran in the form of The Human Spider, who turns out to be a weird entertainer rather than someone who takes off his clothes for a living, and inevitably ends up dead after interacting with the lawyer.
Still, such things are easy to ignore as long as you’re able to believe that these are the luckiest hitmen to ever have lived, that or the police officers in this reality are among the stupidest, and as the jokes and set up’s are so funny in the rest of the episode it’s not something you’ll find yourself too bothered by. There’s many a highlight but best of all is the increasing cheeriness of the lawyer, Jason Watkins really is a superb comic actor and it’s a shame he won’t be back for another episode – well, unless he’s rather fortunate at the end of it, which doesn’t seem likely.
Also set up in this opening episode is a potential romance between Fran and another assassin called Liz, their exchanges are sparky and nicely written, and Liz comes with an amusingly chirpy and polite sidekick in the form of Asim Chaudry’s Charles. Plus as well as all of the above there’s a cute vocal cameo from Liam Williams as a shitty fast food worker, while Alice Lowe’s brief appearance made me chuckle too, and the Human Spider is an unusual creation who is pleasingly childish in a way which generated a good few laughs.
The darker elements work well with the silliness, and the way the show doesn’t flinch when it comes to murder and dismemberment is all too it’s credit. They might not be that well known for their acting skills but both Mel and Sue convince in roles which aren’t of the type they normally take on, the rest of the cast are damn superb, and it’s a sitcom that not only has a very strong first episode but also which shows a great deal of potential too.
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