Sunday, 5 August 2012

Review: VEXED, series 2

Sunday, 5 August 2012

I have no idea how Vexed was given a second series by the BBC, after mediocre ratings, poor critical reaction, and the loss of co-star Lucy Punch (off doing things in Hollywood, perhaps after being reminded the UK doesn't have much to offer funny actresses). Somehow, someone thought Vexed deserves a second chance two years later—so it's back for a longer run of six episodes. But it feels like confidence isn't so high now the show's in the can, as it's been given a summer timeslot that clashes with the Olympic fortnight.

Despite the keenly felt loss of Punch (who struggled with the poor scripts, but at least had the aura of a pleasant, humorous performer), Vexed's setup remains largely unchanged: self-styled ladies' man and world-class dickhead Detective Jack Armstrong (the unfunny Toby Stephens) finds himself working with an attractive and more proficient partner, Detective Georgina Dixon (Spooks' Miranda Raison), and together the mismatched duo bicker their way through interminable procedural plots that fail to justify each hour spent on one.

The characters are dislikeable and clich├ęd, the plotting is limp and uninspired, there's no observable creativity within its overused genre, the dialogue is consistently weak, and there's a numbing lack of chemistry between the leads. It's also hard to get invested in any of the stories when Jack behaves so apathetic about murder cases, preferring to chase whatever skirt crosses his path, and Georgina's a cold bucket of water who extinguishes whatever fun threatens to appear.

There's no compelling drama and precious little comedy. (A big reason for that is how Stephens can be seen hunting for laughs in ever single scene, even if there isn't any.) I'm still astonished this show came from the mind of Howard Overman (who wrote some good Merlin instalments, created the excellent Misfits, and oversaw a good adaptation of Dirk Gently), although the first few episodes of series 2 are penned by other writers. But I'm even more bewildered that the widely admired and thrifty Dirk Gently has been axed by the BBC, when Overman's more expensive and poorly-received Vexed still lives.

The biggest mystery behind Vexed is why it's still on our screens, really—particularly after a monumentally uninvolving premiere (that spent an eternity on a dull investigation into a car salesman's dead body being discovered inside the boot of a car). It was a boring idea that was poorly executed in 2010, and this new series hasn't made enough solid improvements to justify its unexpected return. It's insipid on every level, and fails in every respect. Maybe something will click by the time these six episodes have all aired, if only because Raison showed some promise in her role, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Wednesdays, BBC Two