fri 31/10/2014

Cuckoo, BBC Three | TV reviews, news & interviews

Cuckoo, BBC Three

Greg Davies stars in amiable new culture-clash comedy heavy on stereotypes

Dylan (Tyger Drew-Honey), Rachel (Tamla Kari), Cuckoo (Andy Samberg), Ken (Greg Davies) and Lorna (Helen Baxendale) play happy families

The Special Relationship might be on a sticky wicket politically, but in telly at least it seems to be thriving. Spooks, Downton and Episodes have all recognised the sound commercial sense in bringing together marquee names from both sides of the pond. Now comes Cuckoo, a new six-part comedy series which pitches budding US film star and Saturday Night Live stalwart Andy Samberg against our very own comic giant Greg Davies. The third lead, Helen Baxendale, presumably ticked several boxes simply for being known on either side of the Atlantic seaboard for her (terrible) turn in Friends.

So much for the game plan. What about the show? Below its modern sheen of drugs, sex and sweariness, Cuckoo is a standard-issue generation-gap/culture-clash comedy which conforms to a very orthodox template. In this opening episode Rachel (Tamla Kari) returned from a gap year positively riddled with hippie clichés clutching the ultimate souvenir: a vapid American astral voyager who, though he had been travelling for 12 years, reckoned “the longest journey I’ve ever taken is into my own mind”. His real name was Dale. He called himself Cuckoo.

Learning that their daughter had actually married the buffoon (on a beach under “a transcendental sunset”, naturally), Rachel’s parents Ken (Greg Davies) and Lorna (Helen Baxendale) had to adjust to the arrival of this spiritual pick 'n' mixer into their well-ordered, suburban Midlands nest.

Their theoretical liberal values rubbed against the very real desire to kick this waster into touch

What followed was a single-note comedy of generational and cultural misunderstanding, peppered with rites-of-passage conflict as obvious as it was awkward. Rachel went away to Thailand as daddy’s little girl and came back as an independent woman. Were Ken in any doubt of this fact, Cuckoo gave the kind of sexually suggestive wedding speech which is every father’s worst nightmare, and then spent hours with Rachel locked in some ritualistic and exceedingly noisy shagging.

The hippie gags and signifiers are generally lame - whale music, Himalayan treks, peyote trips and beads - and the battle lines so clearly drawn that it is hard to see how much comic mileage there might be in the two-and-a-half hours yet to come. The performances are excellent, though. Tyger Drew-Honey, no stranger to family comedy as Jake in Outnumbered, plays terminally solipsistic teenage brother Dylan, for whom Rachel’s 12-month absence had all the impact of a trip to the bathroom. Similarly, her return held no significance beyond the major inconvenience of him having to move bedroom.

The ludicrous Cuckoo (pictured right with Davies) is confidently portrayed by Samberg, despite the fact that his character is pitched a few ley lines beyond credulity. A shame, as a little more light and shade would have been welcome. Davies and Baxendale were both good value as the far from clueless Mr and Mrs Thomas, frugging embarrassingly to Salt & Pepa, recalling their own youth (“I hope she hasn’t taken any drugs.” “That’s a bit rich, you used to shovel them back...”) and feeling the burn as their theoretical liberal values rubbed against the very real desire to kick this berobed waster into touch.

Conforming to a comedic stereotype that goes back at least as far as Love Thy Neighbour in the early 1970s, it fell to the woman to build a bridge between the warring parties: Lorna was prepared to give the interloper the benefit of the doubt; to her, Cuckoo was a new age Mr Darcy. To Ken, he was a vapid arse, utterly self-absorbed and infuriatingly superior. A day of attempted male bonding began with Cuckoo punching his father-in-law in the face and ended with him informing Ken airily that "you’re not holding my attention”.

Written by Robin French and Kieron Quirke, Cuckoo is broad, amiable, undemanding fare, lifted by some pleasing performances and a few good gags. The big climax – Ken gave Cuckoo 10 grand to bugger off back to Bangkok; Cuckoo bought a Baked Potato van and was back by sundown – was very probably visible from space, but it neatly set up the next five episodes. Cuckoo is here to stay. What will the Thomas' do with him? What will the writers?

Below its modern sheen of drugs, sex and sweariness, it conformed to a very orthodox comedic template

Share this article

Comments

We loved this comedy.. it was

We loved this comedy.. it was fresh, funny and entertaining.. most unlike the rest of the 'reality rubbish' that dominates the TV.. Brill,, The actors were fab, let's have more of the same....

I laughed so much at this

I laughed so much at this brilliant show. Anyone know when a DVD may come out? I wanted to buy it for several friends and family members for xmas but can't find it anywhere. Thanks.

A great comedy. Beautifully

A great comedy. Beautifully acted and with a great open minded humour. I have enjoyed every single episode and am looking forward to seeing the next serie. Well done to the Cast for such a delight. In terms of comedy, nowadays, I do not think there is much better.

Out of the new comedy's this

Out of the new comedy's this year, this is one of the best. Great scripting and characters. Hope to see a series two!

A great new comedy! My Wife

A great new comedy! My Wife and I really enjoy it. Can anyone tell us who is the band that provide the music for the closing scenes of this weeks episode? Great comedy, great music.

*Thompson. Not Thomas. Tut.

*Thompson. Not Thomas. Tut.

I apologise for this show,

I apologise for this show, they paid me well though. We do our best but the scripts...well, you've seen it. Sorry again.

I love Cuckoo, it's

I love Cuckoo, it's brilliantly done. I'm loving the casting, they're all very strong and Cuckoo himself transcends the (clearly intentional) cliches, pulling off a completely charming and ACTUALLY (Reviewer, I'm talking to you) quite subtle performance. I love Cuckoo, and i hope they put out a dvd set so I can give it as a Christmas present to people overseas.

Agree with all of this!

Agree with all of this! Fantastic

Hardly fair to judge a series

Hardly fair to judge a series on the first episode; this is just to establish the scene and characters for later episodes. The suggestions of underage voyeurism and drug use in episodes 2 & 3 are pretty far from the Terry and June style comedy Mr Thomson detects in this opener. The series has so far proved with each episode, and I for one hope for a series 2.

Put simply, it's dire.

Put simply, it's dire.

Excellent! I've cried

Excellent! I've cried laughing through the first three episodes!

I've watched the first three

I've watched the first three episodes and for me this is by far the funniest program on the TV at the moment!

Overall reasonably

Overall reasonably entertaining.Sure it is not exactly cutting edge stuff and it is quite cliched but I don't really care.Personally I do know people who are a little bit like the title character but this is obviously an exaggeration.I think they just about get away with it within a comedy format.Greg Davies and the rest of the cast are also quite watchable.

Only watched this for Greg

Only watched this for Greg Davies, who has almost nothing to do here, sadly. Apparently he gets more honest in the next few episodes? That'd be nice, because this was a dire half hour that broke no new ground and did it as blandly as possible. And just once could we see a young woman who isn't ready to sacrifice her own hopes and dreams just to keep a man?

Congratulations on your

Congratulations on your successful humour bypass operation. Does every sitcom have to break "new ground"? As for the woman sacrificing her own hopes and dreams - LOL - who really cares - it's a comedy! No one is going to read that into the subtext unless they too have had a successful humour bypass. Take a chill pill!

Tired, predictable and a bit

Tired, predictable and a bit emarassingly bad. Would have been funny 20 Years ago, but not now. Too cliched

Just finished watching the

Just finished watching the first episode and absolutely loved it, I could'nt stop laughing out loud!

About as funny as a turd in a

About as funny as a turd in a hot tub. Cliched, predictable and dated. How the writers will keep this going for another 5 episodes is quite beyond me.

Great light hearted stuff.

Great light hearted stuff. Really enjoyed it.

Hmm, largely disappointing

Hmm, largely disappointing then came the rape joke - sigh. Not big, not clever and not in the least funny. Bigger sigh

"Not big and not clever" -

"Not big and not clever" - much like a retarded dwarf then.

Brilliant comment and great

Brilliant comment and great new show! Too many grumpy people on here!

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Use to create page breaks.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters