TV Review: Beyond The Joke May 2017This entry was posted in Press on .
May 17, 2017 by Bruce Dessau
It’s been a while since the last Count Arthur Strong series but the third run does not mark a significant change. Which is a Good Thing. Our befuddled hero (Steve Delaney) is still as hapless as ever, putting his foot in it at every opportunity and making life hard for long-suffering Michael (Rory Kinnear). The script, by Delaney and Graham Linehan (who also directs) is neatly plotted and regularly punctuated with laugh-out-loud humour. If you like your gags silly you have come to the right place. If it wasn’t for the fact that the opening episode involves an exorcism (and some booze) this could almost be a children’s programme and be scheduled at 5pm.
The only notable change in this series is the arrival of Birdie, played by Bronagh Gallagher. She is another oddball who hangs around in Bulents cafe. We find out early on that she has a penchant for painting silly faces on people when they are asleep or drunk. And somehow you suspect that this may be a part of the plot. Part-Seinfeld, part-Chekhov, Count Arthur does have a habit of setting up a series of unconnected scenarios early on in each programme that may well be tied up together towards the end.
As I suggested, there is something beautifully childllike about this series. Excitable Michael looks like he is about to get his big publishing break with a new agent, but is worried that Count Arthur is going to scupper things. And when it seems as if his agent’s house is haunted and Count Arthur suggests he can get rid of any evil in the house what could possibly go wrong? Of course, once Arthur is in situ with his chums John the Watch (Andy Linden) and Eggy (Dave Plimmer) the only spirits they come across are in bottles.
I won’t give away any more, you’d be better off watching this yourself. It’s shamelessly stupid at times and also shamelessly old-fashioned – not knockabout like Miranda, not crass like Mrs Brown’s Boys, somehow it inhabits its own universe. Inevitably the closest comparison is Father Ted due to its innate charm. And there is a visual film gag that I suspect was the idea of Graham Linehan. I may, of course be completely wrong though, Delaney is also pretty good at dropping cultural references. I am well aware that some people just don’t get Count Arthur, but if you don’t find this funny, please check for your pulse, you may be dead. And if you are alive, please check that you still have a sense of humour.