Even thinking about writing this review makes me uncomfortable so I’ll keep it short. It feels disloyal to dislike Action Team given how much I adore Murder in Successville, how Vicky McClure and Jim Howick both are well on their way to becoming national treasures, and how I absolutely fancy the pants off Tom Davis. But putting all this aside, I offer you this warning. Guys, it’s not good.
On paper it’s got bags of potential – who doesn’t love a silly spoof spy comedy? Austin Powers is a cultural touchstone (if people don’t curl their pinky fingers when they say one million dollars, are they even worth your time?) and more recently Kingsman and Spy with Melissa McCarthy have been doing big box office business. So why not transfer it to the small screen? James De Frond and Tom Davis are surely the right men for the job, given how masterfully they combined cop show, comedy, improv and celebrity quiz show in Murder in Successville? And they’ve only gone and got Vicky McClure from the all-conquering Line of Duty to keep a straight face as the straight woman. ITV were extremely confident, given the huge advertising campaign pumped out last weekend with posters everywhere, adverts on all commercial breaks and Vicky and Tom’s arses adoringing sofas at The Last Leg, Sunday Brunch and probably more besides.
So what went wrong? How come the explosive antics of this international MI6 team didn’t make me laugh? Episode one was there really to set up the characters. There’s a lot of explanation so the jokes were thin on the ground to begin with. It’s worth sticking around for episode two where we get some action on a speeding train and in the bedroom, as the guys in HQ look on and dish out helpful comments.
When the team get chance to interact with each other that’s the funniest. I’d like to see more of that. Davis is clearly having a whale of a time as Logan Mann, a big guy with a big ego, over-confident and thoroughly inept, and his arch nemesis the Russian villain Vladimir Schevchenko. The work experience kid Huxley is a nice touch; he’s the only one who jumps as they walk away from an exploding building, as any normal person would. And it’s great to see Laura Checkley armed with a machine gun and a raging libido instead of a metal detector.
But it’s all a bit flat. Nothing lands particularly well. And it’s a real shame because it could be hilarious. All the elements are there, it’s just the spark that’s missing. Out of loyalty I’ll stick around to see what happens next. Great comedy doesn’t have to be great from the off. Maybe Action Team needs a little while to find its feet. After all, it’s trying to do jokes while clinging on to a speeding train – that’s going to take some multitasking. Action Team; I’m not mad at you baby, I’m just disappointed.
Action Team episodes 1 and 2 are available now on the ITV Hub. Episode 3 is on ITV2 at 9pm on Monday 12th March.