After the two opening episodes of Harry & Paul Series 4, the amazing Harry Enfield and ex-UEA boy Paul Whitehouse were perhaps deserving of an unusually cutting critique of their BAFTA award winning sketch show. That was before the third episode.
The pair makes a true return to previous form with characters returning such as “Jonny et Bing”; their parody of European comedians, and “Charles and Sheridan”, the fantastically wordy and highly busy upper class surgeons.
True, the opening two episodes were missing a lot of the duo’s trademark comedy value. They seemed to have roughly three characters solely dependent on Whitehouse’s ability to be completely indecipherable, which although amusing, was feeling somewhat repetitive.
Also, another pair of new, awful characters revolving around two 1950s busy-body working class women struggled to keep the audience wanting to even watch the show, let alone laugh.
Smuggled within the abysmal displays from these weeks was some stellar material such as excellent parodies of The Killing, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Unfortunately, these were not enough to save the entire episode. Also, reoccurring characters such as “I Saw You Coming” and “Parking Patewayo” feel as if the comedy duo are slowly running out of ideas, and are exhausting what they know the audience love.
Their idea of having minor royals who don’t understand “common” life is also just about bearable. A nice idea, and in keeping with their poking fun at stereotypes and ridiculing social norms, yet it feels lacking in development; and perhaps even just an exposition of a personal hatred.
Episode three shows a true turn around however, from an excellent mocking of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and two famous portrayals of George Smiley, to the “When Life Was Simpler” sketches, which show a man asking a stranger to marry him, and because it is “When Life Was Simpler”, she agrees whole-heartedly.
There’s even a wonderfully pleasant re-appearance of Charlie Higson, a former UEA graduate, as Bunny in the “Are They a Queer?” sketches, where two old boys document which celebrities they believe to be “a queer”.
Obviously, being the third episode, Harry and Paul have massive scope to bring this sketch show back up to their BAFTA standard, and hopefully, secure the shows future in an increasingly unpredictable environment for the sketch show, and TV comedy in general.
All previous episodes are available on iPlayer, and the remaining few will be screened on BBC 2, every Sunday at 10pm.