Boomers. Trevor (James Smith). Copyright: Hat Trick Productions.

Simon Amstell: Carnage review

There's no doubt that Simon Amstell's Carnage is a film with a very heavy message.

Steve Bennett, Chortle, 19th March 2017

Radio Times review

It's Thurnemouth Day, when the Norfolk seaside home of our 60-somethings celebrates its history. That means stolid Trevor (James Smith) donning a Nelson outfit to cut a ribbon and busybody Joyce (Alison Steadman) marshalling her choral society. "I think her goal is to take over every society in Thurnemouth," groans husband Alan. "And then invade Poland."

There are some easy-to-see-coming jokes and creaky bits of comedy based on awkwardness - wry smiles rather than laughs-out-loud - but when the likes of Smith and Philip Jackson as Alan get to underplay things, there's also the sense of a group of people who know themselves and each other almost too well, which could get interesting.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 29th August 2014

Radio Times review

The Boomers muster for an anniversary dinner at a pretentious restaurant, but there's an immediate cloud over proceedings when long-suffering Carol (Paula Wilcox) announces she's bored with Trevor (James Smith), her husband of 40 years.

What follows is half an hour of creaking comedy that's occasionally crude and often quite unpleasant, particularly when Maureen's ageing, wheelchair-using mum (the mighty June Whitfield, rising majestically above the quality of the material) joins the party. Cue limp gags about the bodily functions of the elderly.

Most of the jokes fall to the floor, though there is a ribald, funny quip about a well-known pizza chain.

Alison Graham, Radio Times, 22nd August 2014

After an assured debut in 2010, this was the year that Simon Amstell and Dan Swimer's housebound sitcom really hit its stride. Amstell was still not the greatest actor in the world, but he was playing such an awkward version of himself it didn't matter. He'd also surrounded himself with great characters, played by great actors (Rebecca Front, James Smith, Samantha Spiro, Linda Bassett). While being audaciously self-referential - Amstell's ill-advised joke about Russell Watson's brain tumour on BBC Breakfast was used as a plot device - it was ultimately warm-hearted, with deft scripting that skipped from lunacy to poignancy without missing a beat.

David Crawford, Radio Times, 27th December 2012

The first episode of the new series features one shocking absence - Malcolm Tucker languishes in opposition and is nowhere to be seen as yet - and of hints that the compromises of coalition are an open goal to for satirists. A botched schools policy dominates the opening episode. It's the brainchild of the Coalition's junior partners but - at the behest of fearsomely irritating spin doctor Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin) - it's launched by Roger Allam's crusty traditionalist Peter Mannion, who palpably neither knows nor cares about the initiative. Before long, Mannion's taken his daily 'gaffe dump' and is branded a 'fibre-optic Fagin' - could the government really be proposing the idea of getting kids to design apps to pay for their higher education? As you may have gathered, many of the names remain the same, they're just on different sides of the government/opposition equation. But some things never change. Still bumbling along in the background - hilarious, admirable, pitiful - are civil servants Glenn Cullen (James Smith) and Terri Coverley (Joanna Scanlan). Terri wants out but she's 'too expensive to get rid of.' Glenn is sadder still - when his new colleagues aren't ignoring him completely, they're comparing him to 'a week-old party balloon.' Yet does Glen hold the key to the show's essence? Glenn loses every battle he fights...

Phil Harrison, Time Out, 8th September 2012

"Do you need more acting lessons?" Rebecca Front's fame-hungry mum asks her struggling son (Simon Amstell).

Amstell's acting met with low-level sniping in the first series of his droll sitcom, but it barely matters when he's surrounded by a cast this funny, notably Front and James Smith. Here, Simon's TV career has nosedived, so he's reduced to living at his gran's and exposed to family tensions. Amstell's meta-comedy is, in the words of Larry David, pretty, pretty good.

Ben Walsh, The Independent, 26th May 2012

Simon Amstell's sharp Jewish sitcom in which he plays a slightly skewed version of himself continues to charm. In tonight's thoroughly farcical episode Simon plans on taking newly kleptomaniac Grandma (Linda Bassett) to see a counsellor before heading off on a date. Things go awry when a bumbling Clive (James Smith) turns up and makes a confession about an entanglement with Liz (Samantha Spiro).

Toby Dantzic, The Telegraph, 9th May 2012

This knowing, beautifully nuanced sitcom reaches the halfway mark in its second series. Wannabe actor Simon (star and creator Simon Amstell) lands the role of Ariel in a new production of The Tempest, so he tries to learn how to cry on command. Elsewhere in his ever-chaotic family, Grandma (Linda Bassett) struggles to come to terms with Grandpa's death, and mother Tanya (The Thick Of It's excellent Rebecca Front) prepares a surprise for her own birthday, while her hapless fiancé Clive (James Smith) comes round in the loft after a heavy drinking session.

Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 2nd May 2012