UK TV review: Toast of Tinseltown
James R | On 09, Jan 2022
Matt Berry. Those two words are enough to bring a smile to any comedy lover’s face. Toast of Tinseltown once again gives us a chance to marvel at his ability to pronounce any two words in a way you never thought possible. Motion picture. Movie role. Star Wars. In Berry’s hands, the most innocuous pairing can become laugh-out-loud funny.
The words being delivered with preposterous deadpan in this sequel to Toast of London gives you an idea of what to expect: the follow-up series finds failing actor Steven Toast (Berry) getting a job opportunity in Hollywood, prompting him to move from his UK home to Los Angles in the hope of hitting the big time once and for all.
There he encounters Russ Nightlife (Fred Armisen), an LA type who becomes his new landlord and flatmate, and Dwight Difference (Bill Hader), a producer who attends his own parties via Zoom, plus a whole other host of American cameos that make it clear that Jon Hamm isn’t the only Steven Toast fan across the pond. But that doesn’t mean Toast is bidding farewell to familiar faces, with Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif), Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst), Ray Purchase (Harry Peacock) and Jane Plough (Doon Mackichan) all present and correct.
The fact that both the old and new names are amusingly silly pairs of words is a reassuring sign that, despite its change in location, Toast of Tinseltown hasn’t changed its formula. Events are just heightened enough to the point of ridiculousness, but are greeted with the same bemused straight faces – a cocktail that allows for old-fashioned silly names and surreal asides without descending into total farce, while the editing never shies away from endlessly repeating moments to ram home a punchline.
All this wouldn’t work without a game cast, and the ensemble are superb, from Robert Bathurst’s flawlessly polite sidekick and Doon Mackichan’s wonderfully shallow agent to Harry Peacock’s brilliantly pompous acting rival – who is on hand for a repetitive punch-up to reach defenestrating heights. The addition of Kayvan Novak in the opening episode as anger management therapist Des Wigwam is the icing on the cake.
But this is Berry’s show, and he toys with a gradual development of Toast’s character – we begin with him labelled an “unreasonably angry piece of s***” by The Stage, while this six-parter is technically a serial narrative rather than a loosely structured sitcom – while still staying true to the fundamentals. He’s egotistic, bombastic, clueless and surrounded by idiots, whether that’s the self-important types at his Soho art club or the self-important types dressed as David Bowie at LA pool parties. It’s a gloriously daft slice of silliness and presented with the most creative pronunciation this side of Stath Lets Flats. Another two words? More please.
Toast of Tinseltown is available on BBC iPlayer until December 2022