Pompidou TV Review: Silent Comedy Lacks the Stroke of Genius

4 Mar

By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)

Pompidou

Mention the words silent comedy and only the best creators in the field, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Rowan Atkinson will come to mind. After viewing of the first episode of BBC2’s Pompidou, Matt Lucas’ name may also be considered to be among them — considered but not yet chosen. There is much to enjoy about the newest series from the man who gave such wonderful performances such as Toad in the 2006 TV film The Wind In the Willows, but like many pilot television series, the first episode is usually the one with the most bumps in the road.

As Pompidou, Lucas plays a down on his luck aristocrat living in a caravan located on his family’s crumbling estate. Kept company by his long-suffering valet Hove (Alex MacQueen of TV’s Trying Again) and his intelligent Afghan hound Marion (no really, she reads books), a fantastic work of puppetry. Between the trio, what was once considered mundane tasks have now become big adventures.

In the first episode, the quest is to find food. In a different life, had Pompidou been living in the manor, he’d simply have the valet or cook call the green grocers for a quick delivery. But in a caravan surrounded by remnants of the best of times, keeping fed is a bit more challenging if you’ve never learned how.

From the get-go, this TV series feels like something directed to a more younger audience than to those who’ll tune in at its 6:30 pm time slot. To be fair to Lucas, this is something both mums and dads can enjoy. Pompidou is a series that’s heartily welcomed in my home.

I compare Pompidou to the type of silent comedy found in Mr. Bean and the family comedy of Last of the Summer Wine. It quickly grew on me and made for some comfortable viewing. Unlike the Bean series, you won’t find any of the innovativeness here. Some of the visual gags that are displayed are fresh and funny (a medical doctor listens to radio broadcasts from Pompidou’s chest) while others feel tired (like Pompidou losing his watch in a patient). But neither of them stand out. Lucas is limited in his ability to perform any true physical comedy reminiscent of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and instead builds his character around the British upper class twit persona aquainted with Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

There is still work to be done if this series is to really shine. They need to sort out the characters. The big question here is if Hove is supposed to be a proper comic foil to Pompidou instead of his comic victim.

3 out of 5 Stars

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