One And Done: Zimbani

zimbani one and done indexThere are a ridiculous amount of comedians who I’ve seen over the years and have loved to pieces who haven’t gone on to bigger and better things, even though they’ve deserved to and comics so much shittier have had their own tv shows. But out of nearly all of them the one I’ve been most surprised by his not garnering the love and acclaim of our bastard nation is Colin Hoult, a man who’s acted in a number of much loved series but has yet to be given one of his own.

Hopefully that will be rectified soon (and perhaps the promised Anna Mann pilot will be made post pandemic) but it really should have taken place ten years ago back when the channel Dave made a pilot of this spoof action series based on an Edinburgh live show. Written by Hoult and David McNeill it stars the duo as Harry Lenarkos and Chester Van Der Chester, the two men who make up the “Zimbani Task Force” as they are doing their best to track down the all round terrible human being Zimbani (Julian Barratt).

The plot’s a beautifully daft one as Chester and Harry are supposed to be devoting their lives to finding Zimbani but Harry might be leaving the task force as he’s fallen in love with a woman and plans to take her up the aisle (and after that he’ll marry her, which is an example of the kind of silly jokes you’ll find here) but to stop him going anywhere Chester poses as his mother and seduces Harry. Which is done in a remarkable simple manner by putting on a nice hat, but as Harry’s apparently one of the stupidest men to have ever lived it works a charm, and then to get Harry to return to their mission Chester says that Zimbani has kidnapped Chester’s Mother, and that soon leads to both of them being in the evil monster’s clutches.

It’s a mixture of the Australian parody series Danger 5 and the much loved British comedy Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, and filled with lots of very funny sends up of genre tropes. The acting is deliberately unsubtle and the dialogue’s of an absurdist and ridiculous nature, my favourite moments being where Zimbani is described as “What Mozart did with the piano Zimbani did with the gun”, but a close second is Harry’s confusion about Zimbani wanting to be in the driving seat when it comes to running Africa, which leads to a running joke revolving around the idea that Zimbani wants to “Turn Africa in to a big car and drive it around the world”.

Harry’s incredibly stupidity is responsible for a number of other great moments, not least his constant confusion as to where Chester’s Mother has disappeared to the moment Chester takes off the hat, and boy does it take a long time for him to realise that Chester’s mother was never really there. The show also contains some fun action scenes including a great bout of daft punching and the kicking of a pram, some deliberately awful green screen scenes, and Zimbani is a charismatic villain indeed, though that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given the actor portraying him.

Given just how good it is, and that it co-starred the much loved Julian Barratt who was fresh off of the success of The Mighty Boosh at the time, it’s quite frankly one of those times where I just can’t understand why Dave would commission a pilot but then not give it a full series. It did air once so perhaps viewing figures were low, but given that it was on at the unsociable time of 10.50pm on a Friday night that shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone, and this really should have been given not just one but several series.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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You can watch Zimbani on Youtube here.

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