Saturday, 15 October 2011

Review: SPY, 1.1 - "Codename: Loser"

Saturday, 15 October 2011
written by Simeon Goulden · directed by Ben Taylor
starring Darren Boyd, Robert Lindsay, Dolly Wells, Rebekah Staton & Jude Wright

Imagine a dreadfully lazy merger of Chuck and Johnny English, then throw in the world's most slappable child character since Bonnie Langford "scweamed and scweamed", and you have something approaching Sky's newest sitcom Spy; a worn-out entry into the hackneyed spy-comedy genre, that continues to find favour despite the fact the Austin Powers movies are almost a decade behind us (and only the first one was worth a damn). Still, debuting the same week an unwanted Johnny English sequel somehow reached #1 at the UK box-office, it's clear there's still an appetite for poking fun at the perceived glamour and excitement of espionage.

Spy concerns father-of-one Tim (Darren Boyd), a middle-aged man stuck in a dead-end job at an electrical store (not called the Buy More). He's a nice guy doing his best as a single dad, but is seen as a colossal disappointment by his unnervingly precocious nine-year-old son Marcus (Jude Wright)—a character at least intended to be the most intolerable brat on the planet, but nevertheless is such an irritating screen presence that you find yourself hating Tim for letting the little toerag belittle him. One day Tim's inspired to quit his job and interview for a civil service data entry position, but gets lost and accidentally attends an exam to select brand new MI5 agents. Thanks to Tim's aptitude for Sudoku (no, seriously), he's quickly recruited by "The Examiner" (Robert Lindsay) and the stage is set for comedy spy-jinks, with the twist being that Tim can't tell his family about his impressive new job. (Shades of Chuck, as I said, only minus any sci-fi element--a.k.a. imagination.)

Spy's concept is unremarkable stuff we've seen before in various guises, but despite a winning performance from Boyd (who's perfected playing naïve bumblers over his career), there's almost nothing of merit to this tiresome pilot. The whole concept is uninspired, the way Tim unintentionally becomes a spy is so dumb and illogical it's an insult, there are no memorable jokes (one's even stolen from an old Mr Bean sketch, when Tim fills his exam desk with juvenile paraphernalia), and it felt like a big mistake not to have opened this show with a double-bill. "Codename: Loser" ends at the point when Tim's been enrolled as a spook and given a gun, so we don't even see him on any actual mission.

Robert Lindsay looks delighted to have been spared another series of My Family (if only to grow a beard), and it was good to see Pulling's brilliant Rebekah Staton as a woman called Caitlin who's recruited with Tim and appears to be fully trained for the job. Maybe the show will improve once Tim's out in the field trying to pretend he's 007, with super-spy Caitlin getting him out of trouble as he tries to bluff his way through operations. It certainly can't get much worse than this stiff premiere, which would have been DOA without the charm of Boyd to keep a shallow heartbeat going.

14 October 2011 / Sky1