Tv Review: Code 404 Series 1 Episode 1

code 404 s01e01 indexThis brand new Sky sitcom from Daniel Peak, Tom Miller, Sam Myer is a high budget, high concept affair, set in London in the near future and which starts in a fairly grim manner as Daniel Mays’ rather over the top DI John Major (and yes, anyone over the age of twenty will probably get a chuckle from the name) is gunned down when an undercover arms deal goes wrong as his real identity is discovered.

A year later and his partner DI Roy Carver (Stephen Graham) is visiting the bird bath erected in his honour, only to be suddenly tackled to the ground – by a suddenly now alive again John Major. Understandably confused it’s quickly revealed that thanks to the joys of science that just like the former prime minister he’s named after, Major is 90% human and 10% non-organic matter. He’s the very first prototype though and so his superiors are watching carefully to see if the science works, and whether it can used on others in the future.

It’s a very British take on Robocop then, and Major comes complete with a slightly faulty memory as he cannot quite recall the events of the night of his death, which is convenient for Carver as it quickly becomes clear that he was having an affair with Major’s wife Kelly (Anna Maxwell Martin) and that Major discovered the truth about them that night. But due to his faulty memory he thinks he can move straight back in with his wife, and is disappointed when she fobs him off without telling him the truth.

That’s clearly going to come and bite Kelly and Carver in their respective arses later on in the series, but right now Major is obsessed with finding out who was responsible for killing him, and how his real identity had been discovered by those arms dealing bastards. That involves a trip to see a drug dealer who was also present that night, Richard Gadd, and any comedy nerd will surely quickly realise all is not as it seems with the character given Gadd’s high profile status in the live comedy world.

Impressively helmed by Al Campbell (a renowned comedy director who’s best known as Barry Shitpeas in Charlie Brooker’s Wipe series) it’s not quite an Airplane / Naked Gun style affair but it has a few jokes which could have come from those films, especially when it comes to wordplay with a brief discussion of the definition of the word “threat” being a highlight, as was a chat about how people might have heard about Major’s supposed death right in the middle of a dramatic moment. A good few scenes involving physical comedy are pretty daft too, like how in one scene Major kicks down a door dramatically only to have got the neighbour’s flat by accident, and how he attempts to dispose of a sod load of cocaine by sniffing it all up is a laugh out loud moment, and which becomes funnier as it effects how he acts in the next couple of scenes.

There’s more to it than that though, to it’s credit despite the fantastical overall scenario it feels more real than those type of parody films normally do, and it’s not just rattling through silly gags as it has a strong emotional core thanks to the complicated relationship both men have with Major’s wife. There’s also some nice exchanges of dialogue between the two men which aren’t just of the idiotic variety but which are still funny, and the way Mays plays his over confident copper in general elicits a lot of laughs too.

Perhaps it’s due to my love for this kind of near future shenanigans but as well as making me laugh I was gripped by the storyline and really can’t wait to see how it plays out. Mays is clearly having the time of his life playing such an over the top role, Graham makes for an excellent straight man, the rest of the cast are on excellent form, the script is sharp and a constant joy, and judging by the opening episode this will hopefully be a series that delivers not only a huge amount of laughs but also a fascinating story too.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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