Murder in Successville is one of those shows that has really grown on me over the last couple of years, and the current series on BBC1 really has gone from strength to strength. This is the kind of format that should get picked up in the states and elsewhere and make a fortune for its creators, as the idea could really travel well.
The concept is very clever, get a different celeb each week to play the part of a rookie policeman – or woman – and investigate a murder in the fictional town of Successville, set in an alternate reality where Alan Carr is a gangster and Jimmy Carr is his brother. The regular cast has some of British comedy’s brightest lights, such as Cariad Lloyd’s turn playing Hilary Clinton (ex art forger and teacher), Darcy Bussell and Justin Bieber amongst others, so the execution and improvisation is outstanding by all involved. This is satire at its very, very, best. It hinges around the celebrity buying into the concept (which they do, mostly – I’m looking at you, Meadon) but also the acting and improv skills of Tom Davis (Plebs and Cockroaches) holding the whole thing together. Davis plays DI Sleet, described by his boss Gordon Ramsay as:
‘This is DI Sleet, yeah; he’s our...best detective - which is why we’ve got such a massive fucking crime rate.’
DI Sleet is the guide to the celebrity’s experience in Successville. He leads the celeb through the murder investigation, helps to, ahem, interview the suspects, and hopefully helps them figure out who committed the weekly murder. Davis is the perfect guide for this, and quickly develops a rapport with the celebrity investigators acting as their foil, no matter how stubborn. I have a very vague, drunken, memory of seeing Tom Davis doing a gig at the Turks Head around ten years ago – alcohol and age may have conspired to befuddle that memory, I confess – but I loved him as the landlord’s sidekick in Plebs (yeah, where’s season 4, Basden?) and I confess that he was very much in my head when I wrote the character of ZealoftheLord Miller in The Last Roundhead. He has a genius ability to switch from the menacing to the moronic in a blink of the eye, and in MiS really demonstrates fabulous acting skills and a delightful sense of timing.
In the main, the celebrity goes with the flow and it makes for hilarious viewing – I almost always get the killer wrong but delight in trying to figure it out – and this series has got better and better. I actually didn’t think that the Richard Osman episode could be bettered, but last week with Martin Kemp as the rookie plod set in Ye Olde Worlde managed to top it (it also had a scene at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping which is in Roundhead, so...) and they have kept that level of quality up with Lorraine Kelly last night, giggles and all. I think the budgets have increased a bit over the three series because it is looking much slicker in production.
All of the episodes are on Iplayer at the moment, and if your team gets relegated over the next couple of weeks at least there is something to look forward to after Match of the Day. It is fabulously funny.