What a line-up for a sitcom; three of our most accomplished actors - Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Frances de la Tour - star, and the writers are the super-talented playwright Mark Ravenhill and Gary Janetti, who used to work on Will & Grace, one of the classiest comedies on American television in decades. And what do you get? Well, not quite the laugh fest that it might have been (or may yet become), but an opener that had a reasonable hit rate.
Vicious is another back-to-the-future comedy, a one-room sitcom with two of the queeniest gay men to grace our screens since the dear departed Larry Grayson and John Inman. If Dick Emery's Clarence had made an appearance he wouldn't have looked out of place and, with De la Tour's presence, it could be called Rising Camp (sadly not my line - I nicked it).
Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi) are a bickering, gossipy gay couple who live in crepuscular gloom in their Covent Garden flat. Freddie is a never-has-been actor ("You may have seen me in a scene in Doctor Who") who has long since lost his Wigan accent; Stuart is a one-time barman who is still not out to his mother. He's waiting for the right time - "It's been 48 years!" cries Freddie.
Into the flat upstairs moves the attractive youngster Ash (Iwan Rheon), who attracts appreciative looks both from the men and their faghag friend Violet (De la Tour); most of last night's episode concerned their convoluted attempts to find out if he was gay or straight. Don't people just ask if they're interested to know?
The cast are clearly having fun with the bitchy lines, but Jacobi is overdoing the flounce and Ash is as yet underwritten. Too much of Vicious relies on tired comedy tropes; older people are gagging to have sex with people young enough to be their grandchildren, they don't know anything about youth culture ("Is Zac Efron a person or a place?" Violet asks); or they're deaf, dotty and fall asleep easily. Oh please. As for the double rape "joke" everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves, including director Ed Bye.
On the evidence of last night's first episode Ravenhill and Janetti can't decide if Vicious is lazy retro fun for all the family, or an edgy post-watershed show that's taking us to places never previously negotiated on British TV. Let's hope it's the latter over its seven-week run.Veronica Lee, The Arts Desk, 30th April 2013
There are many more hits than misses in Anna Crilly and Katy Wix's sketch comedy as the pair take aim and fire at television tropes. The best bit is a perfect pastiche of those terrible Top 100 scissors-and-paste list shows that were once a Channel 4 staple. Crilly and Wix make a good job of skewering the kind of talking-head contributors that no one's ever heard of: "Jane Dudgeon - Remembers Things" and "Jenny Crumb - Had a Column Once". There's a clever Apprentice spoof where contestants talk heightened passive-aggressive nonsense ("Totally with respect because I do respect you") and Ruby Wax guest-stars as herself (the show is directed by her husband Ed Bye).Alison Graham, Radio Times, 13th March 2013