Hapless. Paul Green (Tim Downie). Copyright: Magnet Films.

Hapless

My5 and Amazon Prime Video sitcom about a Jewish journalist. 6 episodes (1 series) in 2020. Stars Tim Downie, Lucy Montgomery, Josh Howie, Geoffrey McGivern and Daniel Sinyor.

Another series is in development.

Hapless. Paul Green (Tim Downie). Copyright: Magnet Films.

Tim Downie interview

Hapless is a sitcom described as "part Curb Your Enthusiasm part Alan Partridge". It stars Tim Downie as Paul Green, an investigative journalist at the 4th biggest Jewish publication in the UK.

Created by Gary Sinyor, Series 1 was originally available on Amazon Prime Video (under the title The Jewish Enquirer), but now it has become free-to-air via Channel 5's catch-up service My5. We spoke to Tim to find out more...

Hi Tim. How are you finding lockdown? You've presumably been having to homeschool?

My greatest achievement in lockdown has not been writing my opus or composing some masterpiece for woodwind, oh no, it's been learning what a split digraph is and mastering number bonds better than any four-year-old could ever hope to do! My use of fronted adverbials has now gone through the roof I'm pleased to say.

So Hapless is now on My5. What can people expect from the series?

Joy, confusion, frustration, indigestion, empathy, enlightenment, tips on how not to get your house burgled and how to charm your way out of three points on your driving license, and above all, hopefully, a lot of laughs.

Hapless. Image shows from L to R: Naomi Isaacs (Lucy Montgomery), Ronnie Green (Geoffrey McGivern), Paul Green (Tim Downie). Copyright: Magnet Films.

What made you want to get involved in the project?

It was the chance to do something really fun and inventive and to work with Gary of course, whose Leon The Pig Farmer my mum took me to see in Bedford back in 1992.

We were a small crew, which meant we could get into places quickly, shoot what was needed and get out quick; proper guerrilla filmmaking but done as a TV show, which was very exciting and certainly unique.

How much of your character Paul do you relate to personally?

His constant battle with the small things I can certainly relate to. I get so quietly enraged by people not moving to the side on an escalator or leaving a cupboard door open and then, without a care in the world, just leaving the room.

Hapless. Copyright: Magnet Films.

Your character Paul is obsessed with his own view of truth and fairness which often focuses on mundane everyday injustices like shower gel ingredients and cost of supermarket products - what mundane 'every day' injustice annoys Tim Downie the most?

I like to think that nothing bothers me at all, that I am the most chilled, relaxed person you will ever meet. My wife of course would tell a very different story.

Not really an injustice but something that simply enrages me constantly is when someone says "hello?!" to get your attention. Don't know why but it literally sets my blood to instant boil. "Hello, hello?!" so unbelievably infuriating. No idea why.

Oh, and also, seeing as we're here, drivers who use their hazard lights to change lanes or reverse or for anything that isn't a HAZARD!

Offence culture and what can and can't be joked about is the subject of much debate at the moment. The series embraces comedic taboos and Paul says the 'unsayable'. Was that liberating to perform? Do you think the subject matter of comedy should or indeed even could be policed?

Comedy is vital to any society, it's the gauge, the canary in the mine. It's there to push boundaries, to ridicule, to laugh at those in power and in turn make them accountable. It's one of the most important things any art can do and comedy is the art form that simply thrives on that.

Paul does, at times, say the unsayable but there are consequences for those words and actions. He learns, he grows, he falls over and gets back up better for it and us as a viewer does that as well. The jester in any medieval court was the only person in the kingdom who was allowed to make fun of the king and, as such, could point out what the people were actually thinking.

Hapless. Copyright: Magnet Films.

Series 1 was initially available to Amazon Prime Video subscribers... but it must be a great feeling that it's now becoming a 'free to air' show anyone can watch?

It's amazing, it's what we always wanted for it. It's ultimately what any creative wants, to get their work out to as many people as possible and then hope they enjoy it enough that we can make more. This project has been a crazy, odd, slightly unhinged journey right from the very beginning and it would be great to do it all over again.

Does the sustained interested in the programme suggest that a second series could be possible then?

You always hope that a second series is going to happen, but these things are very hard to call. The world Gary has created is big and sprawling and full of ridiculous stories and characters, so it would be a shame not to be able to foist more of those onto an unsuspecting public.

Hapless. Copyright: Magnet Films.

Talking of new series, what do you think are the chances of Upstart Crow Series 4?

We would all adore to do another series of Crow, such an incredible group of really funny people to sit around a table and be silly with. You can never say never though, stranger things have happened, for instance the resurgence of Rick Astley after 30 years or indeed the rise of matching velvet tracksuits for couples, I mean who knew that would happen? But... here we are.


All six episodes of Hapless are available now via My5

Published: Monday 1st March 2021