Sunday, 27 July 2014

Has Channel 4's THE MIMIC lost its voice?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

THE MIMIC returned a few weeks ago, continuing the hapless non-adventures of maintenance man Martin Hurdle (Terry Mynott), who's now lost his low-paid job and chance of fame and fortune after bottling a TV appearance in series 1's finale. Martin has an uncanny gift for impressionism, see; hence the show's title. It's an original way to showcase Mynott's talent for imitation, although he's also done the more traditional impersonation-based sketch show. The only problem is, I'm not sure creator Matt Morgan really knows where he's going with this.

I could be wrong, of course. Only two episodes have aired, but both helped undo series 1's developments. Martin's back to being an unlucky-in-love loser, only now he's also unemployed and his handsome young son's left him to go on holiday with his mates. Even Martin's best-friend and housemate Jean (Jo Hartley) has dumped her new boyfriend, Martin's other friend Neil (Neil Maskell). It's back to square one for everyone this year, apparently. And that's fine, to an extent, because The Mimic revels in misery and the feeling of a life going nowhere fast. This is a comedy where guffaws are off the menu, as wry smiles and chuckles are its speciality.

Thing is, I really want to see some progress. It feels that Matt Morgan wasn't sure if The Mimic would even work, so designed the first series to tell a finite story about Martin's zero-to-hero journey. It was poised to end with Martin overcoming crippling self-doubt, to become a famous comedian while mending his relationship with his son-turned-manager, but it was enough of a hit for Channel 4 to ask for more. However, rather than take things to the next step, much of last year's progress has been nixed and Martin's back to being sadder than ever. In both senses of the word, now he's forced to car-share Jean's hot pink hatchback with false eyelashes on the headlights.

I hope the remaining episodes push the story forward again and create some forward momentum, because the worrying thing about The Mimic is the gentleness of its comedy. It's sedate and downbeat, which is part of the appeal for many, but the spine of a good story and decent character arc isn't there yet. I'm not sure what's going on, really. Martin's floating around listlessly (going on a blind date, exterminating ants), and although that suits his character I'd like to see some direction.

Maybe we're not supposed to watch this show expecting real and lasting change, just a chance to savour all the performances and Mynott's vocals. He's so quiet and earnest in this role it can be very touching, while Hartley's brilliant as his lifelong friend and confidant. However, it's Neil Maskell who regularly steals the show as a hilariously deadpan newsagent. His scenes with Martin often contain each half-hour's funniest lines, and it's so unnerving to realise Maskell also plays an equally deadpan but sinister hitman in Utopia.

Mynott's impressions can be a little hit-and-miss, but some of them are amazing. His Morgan Freeman and Sir Ian McKellan are always great (thus deployed almost every week), but I'm not so keen on his ubiquitous Terry Wogan and David Attenborough. Some of the others just aren't that good, to be frank, but I'm not sure if that's because the material written for the impressions can be weak, or that Martin obviously can't aide his voices with the make-up and wigs Mynott would utilise. On other shows, I've found Mynott a lot funnier as a pure impressionist, so maybe there's just something about the delivery here that makes some of his voices fall flat.

But if you're watching The Mimic just to hear silly impressions, you're not tuning in for the right reasons. You come for the voices, you stay for the personal angst. If that's your thing.

Wednedays, Channel 4 @10PM