Catch Up TV reviews: The Windsors, The Magicians, Hoff the Record Season 2
Ivan Radford | On 08, May 2016
Hoff the Record: Season 2 (UK TV Play)
Hoff the Record, a spoof documentary about David Hasselhoff’s Alan Partridge-like attempt to bounce back, has always been one of TV’s unlikeliest success stories, but the cast, writing team and the semi-improvised limbo in between the two delivered a surprising amount of laughs in an excellent Season 1. This second season gets off to a slightly more forced start, as David is declared dead by his manager, Max, to drum up more sales – a scenario that, unusually, sees our team actually winning. But there are still plenty of giggles, as the series settles back into its rhythm.
As ever, it’s the superb supporting ensemble that make it work, with Asim Chaudhry getting the chance to expand his role as taxi driver Terry, who helps to hide The Hoff in Watford, and Mark Quartley’s Dieter becoming more clueless by the minute, as he can’t work out where his dad is (despite having seen him earlier that day). Fergus Craig remains on fine deadpan form as Max, even if his sudden burst of smarts about how the celebrity game works doesn’t quite convince. The scene-stealing Vincent Ebrahim (of The Kumars at No. 42 fame) as Terry’s uncle, complaining that they don’t have the money to fund his nephew’s dream security system, similarly treads too close to characters being self-aware – as his excited demonstration of their luxury lifestyle demonstrates (“Broadband speed, David”), Hoff the Record is at its best when everyone is clueless.
Inevitably, though, everything goes horribly wrong – and, just like that, we’re back in familiar, funny territory.
The Windsors (All 4)
Comedy dramas. Dramatic comedies. Fly-on-the-wall irony. Humour on TV has, in many ways, never been more sophisticated. Enter The Windsors, Channel 4’s new comedy about the Royal Family, which couldn’t be less sophisticated if it tried. That, however, turns out to be a very good thing.
Creators George Jeffries and Bert Tyler-Moore (Star Stories) aim straight for the lowest rung of the ladder in their portrayal of The Windsors – and then keep on diving. And so we’re treated to a dumb Prince Charles (played by Harry Enfield), a dumb, power-hungry Camilla (Haydn Gwynne), a dumb, gullible Kate, a dumb Wills (Hugh Skinner) with delusions of being a heroic helicopter pilot, and a dumb Harry (Richard Goulding), who’s just dumb.
If that sounds one-note, what’s impressive is just how many jokes that note delivers. Against all the odds, this is laugh-out-loud telly, as the satire skips the smart stuff and instead embraces the silliness of plausibility over political believability. Skinner, who stole scenes throughout W1A, is in his element, pushing his absurd persona to hilarious extremes with an adorable deadpan face (and a daft fake moustache), while Morgana Robinson is a superb Pippa, seducing Harry with an Airfix model so she can become a princess too. At one point, Harry finds her diary detailing her plan. “Oh wow!” he exclaims. “If only I could read.”
Is The Windsors true? Not a bit. But you’ll want it to be.
Photo: Adam Laurence
The Magicians (My5)
When a show boasts the credit “from the creators of Lois & Clark”, you know you’re in for a good time. This US series, based on Lev Grossman’s novels, is the latest in a crop of fantasy programmes, which mines that most perilous of subjects: magic. It either works or it doesn’t and based on this pilot, The Magicians does.
There are obstacles in its way, from its cliched outsider protagonist – college graduate Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) – and horde of equally stereotypical supporting characters to its alternate universe of Fillory & Further, which draws heavily from Narnia. But as Quentin and his old school friend, Julia, find themselves unexpectedly sitting the entrance for the top secret Brakebills College of Magical Pedagogy, there are tiny details that give this derivative tale some substance, from the show’s tackling of the subject of depression and medication to the importance of the fictitious Fillory books in forming the bond between Quentin and Julia. An early cliffhanger brings suitable peril to the table, backed up by a side portion of strong special effects. The series is at its best when these fears are actually being performed, but it’s worth tuning in just to see Rick Worthy as Brakebills’ Dean, who actually shouts at his newest student “quit dicking around and do some magic”. If the show can stick to that mantra, there’s potential for some charmingly trashy fun.