After the incredible success of Broadchurch, ITV have launched a new Monday night vehicle that they’ve so much faith in that they’d commissioned a Christmas special before the first episode had even aired. Indeed, on paper, Vicious would seem to be destined for plaudits – a studio sitcom (how zeitgeist-y!) populated with acting royalty, led by Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as warring gay couple Freddie and Stuart, and written by Gary Janetti of Family Guy and Will and Grace success. What could possibly go wrong, hmm?
As it transpired from the first episode, almost everything. Vicious is awful; beamed direct from a dystopian parallel universe where rape jokes and broad panto-esque effeminacy are greeted with the sinister canned laughter of approval, it features two of Britain’s finest actors camping their way through a thoughtless and unsubtle mess of a script where the fact that Freddie and Stuart are gay isn’t just a detail, but their entire character.
McKellen and Jacobi, ably assisted by the wonderful Frances de la Tour (The History Boys) and Iwan Rheon (Misfits), do bring some fun out of the script, enough to give some of the gags a gravitas they don’t deserve. Alas, it’s not enough to save it.
Sadly, watching Vicious is an incredibly uncomfortable experience; it attempts to be both of its contemporary progenitors simultaneously and, as such, gets hopelessly lost. By aping Miranda in its quaintness and Mrs. Brown’s Boys in its swear-y ‘edginess’, it’s like an austere, respected grandparent saying ‘fuck’ during Sunday lunch – uncomfortable, awkward but surprisingly watchable.