Vexed (2010– )
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The outline is simple. They go solving crimes in their own way. With Jack being an arrogant, self centred, shallow man and Kate being a neurotic, violent and yet endearingly cute at times.
I like the fact that they are new partners, it gives license to explore what first impressions they give each other, and also is a very clever way of introducing the characters as they can ask questions about each other without it being strange, helping the viewer.
The comedy in the show is very British. Irony, sarcasm and quick-wit. Sometimes immature. The acting is first class. I rarely say that but this time it's spot on. Punch's and Stephens' on screen chemistry, or rather purposefully the lack of it, is near genius.
The stories are original and well thought out.
The only problem is that this show needs, and I mean needs, to be given time. 3 episodes should get you. Unfortunately this will probably be cancelled because it's not some two pints/coming of age rip off. Or rather because it hasn't got the now annoying Russell Howard.
If you love sarcasm and irony. Love misogynistic jokes being torn apart by a woman, enjoy good acting, well written stories and some genuine laugh out loud moments then you'll love this.
If you love arse and tit jokes along with ott accents and slang - then go watch repeats of two pints on Dave or Gold.
The first series had 3 episodes where Armstrong is teamed with DI Kate Bishop (Lucy Punch). She's neurotic, witty, and sometimes violent. They are not Sherlock by any means, but they get the job done. It's their relationship that's the most fun. Something about Lucy Punch makes her adorable even when she's crazy.
The second series had 6 episodes and a new partner for Armstrong. Bishop is replaced with DI Georgina Dixon (Miranda Raison). She's a bland character and just doesn't have the witty exchanges like Lucy Punch. I could barely finish watching the first episode. The cases are still forgettable, and without the energetic Punch, this show becomes an unfunny bore.
The characters are established in the first episode, meaning whose the darker one, or the smarter one. But I can say it doesn't follow that particular formula, they're both relatively smart and witty, and they both can be dark, strangely enough the smarter and moralist one of the pair seems to have a darker side. Though the carefree dumbed-down one is slightly cynical. There partnership can go in any direction which is the appeal with most programmes, though what makes it interesting is they are not two singletons thrown together; one is married and the other single and proud.
The cases though not exactly 'Sherlock calibre' they are smart and flow, and leave me surprised at every new turn....meaning the 'Oh yes...but of course.' moments.
The acting is good, the comedy good, the drama good. The number of episodes.....needs more.
The first season is definitely better than the second one, mainly because it's much more irreverent and more politically incorrect, which is one of the series' greatest assets. Also the female character and her story is more interesting with DI Bishop than with DI Dixon; moreover the (intended and perfectly played) absolute lack of chemistry between Jack and Kate is a much better premise than the growing liking between Jack and Georgina. Still, I would definitely enjoy a sequel, possibly with yet another partner for Jack, and with all the crazy humour of the first series.
The second season had good crime stories, always with good twists to them, only the grown up and tamed Jack was slightly out of the place (the last episode with the pillow battle with the brother made up for many earlier shortcomings of the character, though). I particularly loved the post-gender episode with the nice David Lodge touch to it, partly because apart from the really good storyline it also showed the former boldness in touching current issues and fashions. It also portrayed the academic life very well, even if ironically, which makes me believe that other episodes were also well researched for small details.
As for the actors, I could watch Toby Stephens forever, and I would encourage the producers to let him balance on the border of overdoing a comical character - he can perfectly do it, as he showed in the wonderfully camp Prince John, one of the few redeeming qualities of the otherwise hardly watchable "Robin Hood". Jack Armstrong could use more camp features, too, as the 'mature student' scenes in the academic episode showed.
Lucy Punch is certainly a better actress than Miranda Raison, but the latter did better and better from episode to episode, and much as the first ep. of the second season left me with huge doubts about the character's development, she had her moments later and I even ended up liking her. Her 'picky and desperate' single trait made her character less interesting than Kate's troublesome marriage, though, so the actress could not help that.
Still, the series has got potential and would certainly benefit from a third season.
With the pedigree of the writer of Misfits and the Producer of Little Britain I expect this series to develop positively. The first episode went along at a lightening pace and I have to say it sucked me in. The jokes hit my spot. The idea of building a comedy around a loyalty card stalker is a nice one - and there were plenty of one liners to please. Not everything came off - no "pussy cat" jokes again please - they went out with Mrs Slocombe in Are You Being Served.
OK it is not easy to replace the very excellent Sherlock but no comparison should be made. I'll be tuning in hoping to see this one progress. Toby Stephens and Lucy Punch were a delight but they carry the whole show on their own. Deepen the involvement of secondary characters and we might see this improve.
The first series was not a great critical or viewing success. A re- tooled second series appeared two years later, Punch was replaced by Miranda Raison and Jack was toned down, made a little bit more sensitive and a better detective. Stephens tried his best to be a charismatic series lead.
Like Moonlighting it is off beat enough with a hint of 'will they or won't there' and crime solving thrown in.
Unfortunately the second series was not a hit with the audience neither. I doubt the series will return which will leave the creator slightly vexed.
I believe that this series will improve as time progresses and hope that the remainder of the series achieves the viewing figures that this funny, quirky comedy deserves.
Full marks to the writers for producing something different ...... and succeeding in their efforts to make us laugh.