Joseph Millson

  • Actor

Press clippings

Radio Times review

Joseph Millson's role in Campus catered for a particular audience. As English professor Matt Beer in Victoria Pile's comedy, he started out a womanising layabout and ended up... well, a more sensitive layabout. Millson speaks enthusiastically of a rehearsal and improvisation process that enabled the close-knit cast to have more creative input than normal on a TV project.

Sadly, a second series was not to be - "which is very confusing because it was commissioned - it was written, I believe - and then at the 11th hour dropped by Channel 4.

"I've got my own theory, I don't care if I get sued for it - I think it's because the very wonderful series called Fresh Meat was slated at a similar time, and they probably didn't want two university comedies. Although I think they would have complemented each other brilliantly."

Laura Pledger, Radio Times, 6th December 2011

The disturbing surprise in Campus is that some talented comic acting refuses to be funny. Squatting at the centre of the action is Jonty de Wolfe (Andy Nyman), the vice-chancellor of Kirke University (in-joke: Howard Kirk is Malcolm Bradbury's anti-hero in his 1975 campus novel The History Man, a TV series 30 years ago). A monstrous man, he harasses his scholars - in particular the compulsively randy English professor Matthew Beer (Joseph Millson) - into publishing bestselling books, mimics students' foreign accents and, in this past week's episode, seeks a 25 per cent staff reduction by shouting at passing academics through a megaphone: "F**k off out of it, thank you very much, have a nice day." He locks a visiting bank manager in a cupboard to avoid his bad news, composedly takes tea beside a scholar who has just died, and threatens the university's gullible financial officer with shrinkage.

He and the other characters pursue their lives' strategies - power, sex, money, fame - as independent atoms, hurtling through a universe of others with which they collide. In their relationships, they either prey on others or are preyed on. Anyone seeking to pursue serious work or study is marginal to the main action. The one real success, a book on the concept of zero by a shy mathematics lecturer Imogen Moffat (Lisa Jackson), changes her from a cipher to the status of a tethered goat on which all other animals seek to feed. Where The History Man was, in part, a satire on sociology (Kirk's discipline) and the phoney uses to which it can be put, Campus ignores the intellectual content of a university in favour of concentrating on de Wolfe's awfulness. The more the comic business frantically multiplies, the more inert the matter is: its core, like that of the fictional university, seems absent. There is no "there" there.

J Lloyd, The Financial Times, 16th April 2011

I could complain that Joseph Millson as the libidinous lecturer in Campus has a standard-issue look. Specifically, this would be a complaint about him not being mad-eyed and Zapata-moustached like the original libidinous lecturer, Anthony Sher in The History Man. But what's the point? Better just to enjoy this six-parter from the team behind Green Wing, although I've yet to find anyone else who likes it.

What does that say about almost everyone I know? That they all went to uni whereas I didn't. Maybe I'm too quick to laugh at portrayals of varsity life where the head of the English department sunbathes on the R of Kirke (the uni's name) spelled out in big concrete letters and declares: "It's like the best vending-machine imaginable. Every September another crop of gorgeous, impressionable girls drops into the drawer at the bottom. I don't even have to press D6 or reach into the perspex flap to grab them." But the truth is I envy my friends their debauchness and, just occasionally, their degrees. Like Joe Lampton, I can be right chippy.

Not that Campus is perfect. It's terribly pleased with its own daring in that very Channel 4 way. I mean, is "vagina" still funny, the eighth time you hear it? Wouldn't it have been wise to save up some of the vaginas to counteract a possible mid-series audience drift? Because isn't there a very real danger the show has over-vagina-ed itself after just one week? I can't help wondering if the late, great Johnny Speight was watching, up there in Comedy Heaven. The Sex And The Sitcom doc the previous week dug up old footage of the Till Death Us Do Part writer bargaining with "four 'bloodys' for two 'tits'" to get his scripts past the TV beaks.

The Scotsman, 12th April 2011

I'm going to say something which is going to make me unpopular with most critics - I actually like this show.

Having read other reviews of Campus, the vast majority, especially those in the tabloids, derided this new sitcom by the team behind Green Wing. Most said it was bad because it's too similar to Green Wingp. Are these people mad? That's like saying, "This country has a rubbish football team. It's too much like Brazil's."

Campus, like Green Wing, is great, especially the egotistical, power-crazed and bigoted vice chancellor of Kirke University, Jonty de Wolfe, played by Andy Nyman (most famous for being Derren Brown's right-hand man).

Nyman's character also got panned by the critics, arguing his remarks went too far, comparing him unfavourably to David Brent (the fact they have the same beard doesn't help, I guess). There are key differences here, though.

Brent is a middle-manager, is meant to be a realistic character, and in the end his incompetence results in him getting the boot. Wolfe is the master of a surreal and chaotic world, answering to nobody, and as such is able to get away with what he does because there is no-one able to stop him - at least not yet, but there is another character who is due to appear later in the series who might be able to stop Wolfe.

Among the other Green Wing associations made were comparing their characters to Campus'. The misogynistic English Literature professor Matt Beer (Joseph Millson) was compared to Guy Secretan - and to be fair there are quite a lot of similarities - and his relationship with Maths lecturer Imogen Moffat (Lisa Jackson) is similar to that between Guy and Caroline Todd.

I also read one critic comparing mechanical engineering lecturer Lydia Tennant (Dolly Wells) to Sue White, which I think is totally wrong. With all of her idiosyncrasies, odd mannerisms and pomposity I'd argue if anything that she's more like Alan Statham. It is in fact Wolfe who is most like Sue White, but only with much more power.

I have to admit, though, there are some problems with the show. Firstly, the camerawork is quite unprofessional, with some dodgy cuts (watch the scene when Wolfe is on a megaphone talking to a female student about a degree in arseology - his left hand is suddenly on a rail, then on the megaphone and back on the rail again) in this episode in particular.

And in the end I just know Channel 4 will axe the show. The first episode was watched by only 718,000 people, as previously mentioned several times it's been written off by the critics, and nothing I've written will change any of the minds of the bigwigs who run the network.

But in truth, the main reason that Campus is on Channel 4 in the first place is because they decided to axe Green Wing; so if you don't like Campus, don't blame the writers or the other people behind the show, blame Channel 4 for axing the original great work in the first place.

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 11th April 2011

The first of 2009's batch of Comedy Showcase pilots to get the green-light for a full series, this has been extended to an hour with a lot of the old gags kept in and new ones added.

Produced and directed by Victoria Pile, Campus is basically Green Wing set in a university - minus almost all of that series' charm.

While Green Wing started with likeable characters from which the zaniness developed naturally, here the equation seems to have been turned on its head with zany as the start and end point.

Leading the cast is Andy Nyman as Vice-Chancellor Jonty - a racist, sexist, magical ­combination of David Brent, Sue Sylvester and Dr Evil with hair that resembles an exotic pastry.

Lisa Jackson plays maths geek Imogen Moffat and Joseph Millson is self-appointed English lecturer/sex-god Matt Beer.

It is the work of eight writers and a condition of employment seems to have been that they each had to use the word "vagina" at least once. It's funny, but Needs To Not Try So Hard.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 5th April 2011

Finally, Channel 4's Comedy Showcase returns - essentially The X Factor for sitcoms. Every week there's a new pilot, with the most popular being commissioned for a whole series - before, presumably, having a nervous breakdown and being admitted to the Priory.

First up for the phone vote was Campus - the new project from the Green Wing team: essentially Green Wing but set in a red-brick university, not a hospital. The show is already so well-formed that finding it having to audition for a series seems bizarre - like Patti Smith turning up to an X Factor audition in Cardiff, and doing Piss Factory to a gob-smacked Simon Cowell.

The writer/director/producer Victoria Pile has two trademark techniques: creating worlds where a horrible, dark surreality keeps oozing through the cracks; and characters who take childlike gestures to extremes - walking past a shelf and pushing all the books off with a triumphal air, stealing lipstick from a handbag and putting it on during a conversation, shouting "Shut!" at a door that's already shutting.

Although, like Green Wing, Campus works as an ensemble of freaks, perhaps the most intriguing mutant is Vice Chancellor Jonty de Wolfe (Andy Nyman). Initially, he looks like the weakest character - a small, bumptious David Brent clone who keeps attempting Jamaican patois to make a point. But by the end of the show he has turned into a more sinister version of the shopkeeper in Mr Benn - wandering around the library in a floor-length taffeta ballgown, urging depressed students to commit suicide and, on one occasion, simply disappearing in the middle of a monologue, as if it were a Las Vegas floor-show, leaving his English lecturer Matthew Beer (Joseph Millson) holding a madly clattering clockwork monkey, and his jaw.

The 2007 Comedy Showcase resulted in series commissions for The Kevin Bishop Show, Plus One and Free Agents, from which The Kevin Bishop Show has made it to a second series - making it very much the Leona Lewis of the enterprise. But Campus is far superior stuff to Kevin Bishop. It makes Kevin Bishop look like ... David Sneddon. Campus - it's a yes from me. I'm putting you through to Boot Camp.

Caitlin Moran, The Times, 7th November 2009

This is the series where Channel 4 kicks some fledgling sitcoms out of the nest to see which ones will fly. The Kevin Bishop Show, Plus One and Free Agents all came out of 2007's try-outs and I'd put money on Campus getting the green light - especially as it's set in Kirke University (motto: "With Wings").

It feels like Green Wing Goes To College, because it was made by that show's creator Victoria Pile and her team. Like Green Wing it has that same air of institutionalised in-breeding about it and is backed by another distinctively woozy soundtrack by Trellis.

There are some very funny moments but the staff at Kirke are perhaps a little too eccentric for their own good. It's as if the challenge was how weird can we make these people and still have them breathe oxygen?

Vice-chancellor Jonty (Andy Nyman) comes on like a more megalomaniac David Brent, while womanising English lecturer Matt Beer (think about it) and speccy maths star Imogen Moffat (Joseph Millson and Lisa Jackson) have big shoes to fill if they're to be Campus's answer to Guy and Caroline.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 6th November 2009

How many misfits does it take to run a university? Should this question ever pop up in the miscellaneous round of a pub quiz somewhere in Weirdchester, you'll be grateful for having watched Campus, the new show conceived by Victoria Pile and the team behind Green Wing and Smack The Pony.

At the show's heart is chief misfit Jonty de Wolfe. Played by Andy Nyman, the megaphone-wielding, peppermint tea-sipping Vice Chancellor turns kooky, quirky and crass up to eleven. Joseph Millson (Casino Royal) is lecherous literature lecturer Matthew Beer, and Dolly Wells (Star Stories) takes a marvellous turn as a behind-the-scenes worker nicknamed "the big shit" as a schoolgirl. "Because I was a big shit," she explains, "and also because I do big shits."

Campus is set in the fictitious Kirke University and looks every bit the "ensemble comedy". The camerawork is jittery without irritating, and the writers have conjured a veritable symphony of comic characters. On the evening the show was introduced with no little wryness as "not the Green Wing set in a university." Derivative? Perhaps. But I'd be happy to watch the Green Wing set anywhere, thanks very much.

Gary.Cansell, End of Show, 18th October 2009

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