In the shitcom form nothing much is new but Peep Show‘s P.O.V. shots and internal monologues that went directly into the heart of darkness that was Jeremy and Mark‘s stream of consciousness were a real innovation, with lethal writing and potent character mix that made it a joy, one of the modern British greats. Creators Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong collaborated on Channel 4’s impressive comedy-drama Fresh Meat last year now they’re back with Bad Sugar a one-off pilot which seems to be parodying Clownton Abbey, Dallas and sundry other melodramas of the affluent. How could it fail?
We join the action as Lucy (Sharon Horgan) marries into the Cauldwell mining dynasty. Husbland-to-be Rolph Cauldwell (Peter Serafinowicz) is a flame-grilled gay in a barely-there closet but that doesn’t bother Lucy so much as she’s really just after the family fortune. Lucy is the glass-eyed sociopath upon which such shows are built but she has competition in Rolph’s eldest sister Daphne (Julia Davis) who plays yet another glass-eyed sociopath in addition to Jill from Nighty Night and Dorothy from Hunderby. Lucy married Rolph on the understanding that his father and family patriarch Ralphfred (David Bradley) was on the very last of his last legs. But as he wheels into church at the wedding it looks like the old cunt isn’t going anywhere soon.
Husbland-to-be Rolph Cauldwell (Peter Serafinowicz) is a flame-grilled gay in a barely-there closet but that doesn’t bother Lucy so much as she’s really just after the family fortune.
The mean-spirited, miserly and controlling shitbird is a wrong ‘un. Still, he’s the only one who actually earned anything so it’s hard to have too much sympathy for the family when they have to ask for permission and funds to go on holiday.
It gets worse for the parasites. Ralphfred’s changed his will. His nurse Maria now gets everything and the offspring get a big pile of piss all. While obviously natural enemies Lucy and Daphne realise that them joining forces is the only way to stop this appalling vista being realised. Who else is going to step up? Soppy sister Joan (Olivia Colman)? *Family Fortunes nnnneh-nnnnnaaaa noise*. Joan is as sunny and good-natured as Daphne is cloudy and bitch natured even though there is this story going around about how she “accidentally” killed her twin brother as a child with the”bad sugar”of the title.
What else is going on? Rolph desperately wants to put his cock into his manservant Lipton (Jonjo O’Neill). Daphne’s husband Greg (Reece Shearsmith) is a wheelchair user and it seems very much as if it was Cauldwell’s health and safety practices that put him in that wheelchair leading Daphne and Greg to have the kind of healthy happy relationshit Oscar and Mimi have in Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon which, if I remember rightly, means that Kristin Scott Thomas will be lezzing off with Julia Davis as Slave to Love plays and Hugh Grant says “look here old boy”.
Cauldwell’s health and safety practices put him in that wheelchair leading Daphne and Greg to have the kind of healthy happy relationshit Oscar and Mimi have in Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon.
So this is pretty good. The cast is sturdy, the writing tight and the general air of lunacy around telenovellas is well captured. This pilot will turn into a full series next year¹. There will be plenty of worse shows you could watch. In With The Flynns for example.
The verdict: Bad Sugar! How come you taste so good?
Marks out of 10: 7.5
¹Apparently now cancelled because of acturd’s schedules. This would never have happened in Hitchcock’s day.