When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand. This could get to be pretty silly but somehow it didn’t seem to matter.
– Raymond Chandler
Murder in Successville‘s detective is a perfect comedy parody of Raymond Chandler’s archetype hard-boiled gumshoe Philip Marlow. Only DI Sleet has no discernible skills apart from escalating a situation out of all control and leaving his sidekick to mop up the mess.
Sleet, played by Tom Davis is a big presence on-screen – I mean, really big. Like an amiable bear in a trench coat, snarling and snapping in his raspy voice, ground down by the celeb-on-celeb crime in Successville, lonely and hard-drinking. But it’s not all noir in this improv-comedy-parody-celebity-gameshow. Set him up with the right partner and he’s cheeky, witty and very fuckable if you like that sort of thing (I do).
As you can tell this is a show that defies convention. How it got commissioned I’ve no idea. But I’m very glad it did.
The ill-prepared genuine celebrity rooky constables are always good sports. Funny and very watchable because of their baffled confusion, but rarely as quick as Sleet or the other comedy celebs showing off their considerable improv skills. Davis is usually toying with them and retains the upper hand in the on-screen power dynamic.
Vicky Pattison (Episode 1, Series 2) was a revelation, especially given she’s mainly famous for Geordie Shore and I’m a Celebrity – not exactly programmes that need much brain power or quick wit. Right from the off you could tell she was no push-over. If she was at all confused she didn’t show it. Balls deep in nonsense in no time at all and absolutely loving it. Party hats would be “whimsical” she says with a broad grin. Throwing shapes to the Macarena, partying with an out-of-control Lorraine Kelly and picking out all the clues from the red herrings and guessing the identity of the murderer. Vicky, you had me at whimsical.
The word-of-mouth (word-of-keyboard?) success of Series 1 means they can have their pick of guests and comics for Series 2. Paul Whitehouse as Len Goodman was clearly frolicking through the script and delighted in making Tom Davis corpse. The Guardian says “Whitehouse is the heavyweight, effortlessly besting every gag Davis… hurls at him. When he finally breaks his younger opponent with the line “Bring back hanging for halitosis!”, it’s glorious.”
The best guests are those who are over-the-top enthusiastic – Dermot O’Leary was a highlight of Series 1, and tv dragon Deborah Meaden struggling to impose her will on the chaos, in exactly the way you’d imagine she would.
Successville is sort of show you need to watch at least twice because you miss a lot of it laughing at what just came before. It’s a tragedy that it’s on BBC3 so oldies like me have to make an effort to watch it and can’t just stick it on series link on the Sky box. Thank goodness for Google Chromecast so I can watch it streamed to the telly and not hunched over a tiny laptop screen.
Without doubt this is one of the oddest and best comedies on tv in a long time, and it’s not even on tv. And yet we still have to wait 7 days for each new episode. It’s all of the hassle of being online with non of the binge-watch benefits. I guess that’s the sort of weird shit that makes sense in Successville.
Murder in Successville Series 2 is on the iPlayer – you really need to watch it. Maybe Series 3 can get an upgrade to BBC2? That’d be a true mark of Success.