One of the more unusual offerings of late, The Mimic is a five-part comedy-drama starring impressionist Terry Mynott (VIP) as a seemingly unexceptional maintenance man called Martin Hurdle, who actually has the eerie ability to imitate voices. You'd think he'd try writing some jokes and taking a risk during an open mic evening at a local comedy club, but it's instead a relatively private party trick. The only person he tends to do impressions around in best-friend Jean (Jo Hartley), although in the first episode he befriends a paranoid newsagent called Neil (Neil Maskell) with an Al Pacino impression.
The career of an impressionist is one of comedy's oddest, because there doesn't seem to be many avenues beyond early evening light entertainment (Alistair McGowan), late-night political satire (Rory Bremner), or post-watershed lewdness—which Mynott has previously tackled as part of Channel 4's VIP series alongside Morgana Robinson. The idea of putting an impressionist in a narrative-driven comedy like The Mimic should therefore be applauded for doing something different, but I'm not convinced the concept works. The majority of The Mimic's first episode was actually a lukewarm drama about Martin getting reacquainting with his long lost 18-year-old son Steven (Jacob Anderson) from a failed relationship. Steven's a handsome and confident young boy, in contrast to his shy father, but it seems inevitable that the show will chart the progression and improvement of aimless Martin. Who knows, maybe the last episode will involve Martin having a breakthrough at a comedy club.
I quite like the intention of The Mimic, but it was let-down by a scarcity of laughs from writer-creator Matt Morgan (Russell Brand's co-host on their defunct Radio 2 show). And that's unforgivable for a show like this, with a talented man like Mynott to utilise. That said, this first episode did Mynott's repertoire no favours because it showcased many of his weaker impressions (like a particularly poor Ronnie Corbett). If you've seen Mynott's excellent YouTube audition tape, you'll know he has some good impressions up his sleeve, so hopefully future episodes will find ways to include his excellent Ian McKellen and Paul McCartney. (Rather oddly, his Corbett impression's pretty good in that homemade footage, so maybe he was just having a bad day's filming here?)
But who's going to be watching a show like The Mimic? The impressions will always be hit-and-miss, and there are better TV formats to showcase that particular skill. And everything unrelated to Mynott doing funny voices was wrapped up in a pretty unremarkable story of a middle-aged loser getting to know his cool teenage son. Admittedly it's still early days, so I don't want to write-off The Mimic too soon. The brief trailer for episode 2 was funnier than this opening half-hour, and maybe the dramatic elements of the series will rapidly improve. Mynott's certainly very likeable in the role, the tone's pleasingly wistful, and I enjoyed the support from This is England's Hartley and Utopia's Maskell as his friends.
One to keep an eye and ear on.
written by Matt Morgan / directed by Kieron Hawkes / 13 March 2013 / Channel 4