19 December 2011 4:05 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

The cast is stellar and the acting's great. Shame the script is so bland and unfunny

The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff (BBC2) is a sort of panto for grownups. It's a Dickens pastiche of a sort, I suppose, though nothing like closely enough observed to count as either homage or satire. Everybody in it acts their socks off. Celia Imrie, in particular, attacks the role of Robert Webb's long-lost mother with such gusto that I was carried away with the moment and I forgot how uniquely uncomfortable is this no man's land of   entertainment, where humour is clearly the purpose and yet it just isn't funny.

This assertion would be unfair without examples, and yet it's a bit unfair with examples also, since the jokes are even less funny on the page than they are in the telling. So, instead of just Big Ben hastening the march of »

- Zoe Williams

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