This review contains spoilers.
Badults is the first TV series for acclaimed sketch troupe Pappy’s, originally known as Pappy’s Fun Club, though it’s not their first attempt having piloted a self-titled sketch series and The Mr and Mrs Hotty Hott Hot Show for Channel 4 previously. The premise is that Matthew Crosby, Tom Parry and Ben Clark all live together, joined by childhood friend Rachel, played by Emer Kenny. Older readers may remember fantastic anarchic trio The Goodies and their inspired cartoon flights of fancy. It’s that kind of tone Badults is going for.
The working title for Badults was ‘The Secret Dude Society’. Though it may seem like an innocuous assortment of words, it also hints at the flaws running through the first episode. It’s a collusion of funny sounding words strung together with no rhyme or reason. A series of punchlines without build ups.
And that’s the underlying problem with Badults so far. From the off there’s a jumble of cheap puns thrown around liberally and too often a gag will overstay its welcome or be clunkily explained away. Another problem is the lack of any recognisable characters within the three main leads. Ben, Matthew and Tom all play the same wide eyed idiot jostling for space and shouting to be heard. Emer Kenny is a stand-out performer here, alongside a nice guest spot from Jack Docherty, previously of recently reunited and still brilliant Scottish sketch group, Absolutely (all episodes available on 4oD and DVD by the way).
In this age of awkward naturalistic sitcoms, it’s commendable that Pappy’s want to bring the spirit of shows like The Goodies and The Young Ones into 2013. Visually, it’s great. Shot multi-cam style with high key lighting, the set itself is wonderfully decrepit. Why Rachel would spend time in such a house with these three though, isn’t explored, and unfortunately, her character is given barely any screen-time in this opener. As much as it pains me to say this, the laugh track is another issue here. Whoever mixed the audience laughter has been overeager and added it after nearly every sentence which drowns out the actual jokes, unless people genuinely find the words ‘joint account’ hilarious.
There’s the seed of something great in here but it’s only been half-realised. In their live shows, Pappy’s get by with ramshackle charm and enthusiasm, but so far, this hasn’t translated well to TV. The Goodies had sequences inspired by the silent slapstick of Buster Keaton and the cartoons of Tex Avery. The Young Ones pushed through with sheer force of will and an incredibly dense number of gags and non-sequiturs. Badults, however, doesn’t maintain tonal consistency, as seen in a prolonged scene with heavy use of the word ‘shitting’ that seems out of place with the world of man-children they’ve built here.
There are flashes of what this show could be. There’s a great visual joke featuring the signers who haunt late night TV. A great plot that revolves around an old family favourite board game and certain revolutionary musical. But these elements don’t come into play until six minutes from the end which leads to the episode feeling like it’s rushing to the finale.
There’s potential here, certainly, but Pappy’s as a group have already been together for nearly a decade. If they’re going to be seen as one of the great troupes alongside the likes of Absolutely, then they have some growing up to do.
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