There’s been a couple of lockdown comedies produced so far but they’ve either been variety shows with various comedians performing from their homes without the aid of a studio audience, or spin off’s from preexisting shows like Parks and Recreation and Mythic Quest Raven’s Banquet. Staged is the first which is its original creation based on this strange new world, where a bunch of actors are due to start rehearsing the play Six Characters In Search Of An Author so that they’re ready to go the minute the lockdown is over with.
In this opening episode the aforementioned actors are just Michael Sheen and David Tennant, reuniting after their roles in Good Omens, and though there’s the odd scene where others feature, with Tennant’s wife Georgia and Sheen’s wife Anna making appearances, while writer and director Simon Evans briefly features as himself, most of the time it’s just the duo chatting to each other.
This is a mixture of Tennant trying to persuade Sheen to take part in the production, the two discussing life during lockdown, and a slight bit of teasing of each other, and it’s an oddly mild affair. When lonely David supposedly has a compulsion to spell things backwards in his head but that doesn’t generate any laughs, while the two compare the art they’ve produced with David having drawn a pineapple that looks like it was made by a five year old but Michael’s created a painting that looks astonishingly impressive, but again it’s just not funny, and a very obvious joke that you might find yourself briefly smiling at but nothing more than that.
In some ways it feels like a pandemic version of The Trip where you’ve got two famous individuals chatting away, except that instead of travelling around the world they’re stuck in their living rooms. But unlike Coogan and Brydon they’ve not really got anything involving to say, there’s a vaguely interesting suggestion that many author’s are shit but it’s not developed in any amusing directions, and an argument about whose name goes first on the poster shows their more egotistical side, but it’s only barely amusing at best.
There’s also a few bits which are just plain poor, like some humour based around Zoom chats and how everyone speaks at the same time, while director Evans loses his connection at a very convenient point, and it’s just weak and unfunny, and even though we’re only two and a half months in to the lockdown, not exactly original either. It ends with a petty argument between the Sheen and Tennant, and Tennant commenting that on Sheen’s wikipedia page it “Also says you’re a cun-” but the episode ends before he finishes saying that word, as it seems to think the suggestion of what he was about to say is funnier than Tennant calling him a cunt, but for me the latter would have actually been amusing, whereas what we get really isn’t.
There’s been quite a few comedies that satirise actors and their quirky ways and this offers up nothing new. There’s some very, very slight jabs at the duo’s egotism, some feeble commentary about how the lockdown has effected them, and the slight hint of a suggestion that both are perhaps a tiny bit eccentric in their own ways, but none of this translates in to anything funny, and though inoffensive it’s an enormous disappointment.