UK TV review: Short Poppies (by Rhys Darby)
Andrew Jones | On 03, Apr 2014
Rhys Darby’s humour is a very warm, welcoming kind. While he’s best known for his work with Flight Of The Conchords, as he steps into the lead role of his very own TV series, Short Poppies, it’s clear that he hasn’t lost any joy or heart in the process.
The mockumentary show (directed by Jemaine Clement and Michelle Walshe) is very much like That Peter Kay Thing – each week we look at a quirky character doing their thing in the fictional community of The Bay, as a camera or three follow them around. We get a sense of their life and their environment distilled into an enjoyable 24 minutes; less a story and more a naturalistic journey.
Amazon Prime Video offers fans the chance to enjoy these small-scale comic misadventures all at once, as the entire series is now available to stream. Binge-watching is highly recommended, and almost impossible not to do, as the world of the show branches out with every installment.
In Episode Two, the story of a Ufologist who runs a support group for abductees – he was abducted three times, twice by his step-dad – and investigates possible flying saucer sightings, we see two other people pop up in the background and play a limited part. It feels like a fully realised place, full of well-informed characters played by Darby.
There are some great supporting roles as well, some of whom are antagonistic in various degrees, some of whom genuinely care about our lead, but no one ever seems to be a one-dimensional creation for plot movement. It’s a great experience to watch a show where even the bad guys, if you can call them that, are crafted with a reasoning behind their actions and an understandable world view. All the friends of the protagonist imbue him (and themselves) with the kind of earnest sweetness that turns the comedy of the piece from “look at these weirdos” into “this is funny because these characters are doing things they shouldn’t, but believe they should”.
It’s a hard balance to find, not gawking at the strange folk nor becoming so sweet that there are no jokes. Short Poppies gets it just right.
This is addictive, laugh-out-loud and imaginative stuff, with Darby showing his great skill for creating characters. Absolutely hysterical in every episode, well made and utterly inspired, the show proves that in an age of cruel schadenfreude, kind humour can still entertain.
Short Poppies is one of the funniest things to hit TV for a good long while. Make the time to check out every episode; it’s rewarding and fulfilling viewing.
Short Poppies is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.