Cuckoo episode 3 review: Ken On E
The odd-couple bromance at the heart of Cuckoo is shaping up to be one of the most enjoyable comedy double-acts of the year...
This review contains spoilers.
1.3 Ken On E
After last week’s episode, funny though it was, I felt that Cuckoo was pretty unlikely to exceed the sum of its parts. The show felt too haphazard in its approach, combining two excellent comic performances by Samberg and Davies but ultimately failing to gel. I’m delighted to have been proved totally wrong on that score. Ken on E was hilarious, really delivering on the promise of Cuckoo’s fantastic cast. Robin French and Kieron Quirke seem to have decided that the key was to bring the rest of the show up to Samberg’s level of zaniness, and it’s paid off in spades.
Cuckoo’s sometimes come across as a British person’s idea of a Californian hippie rather than a believable character; occasionally, the lines he was given didn’t sound quite right coming from the mouth of Samberg’s otherwise pitch-perfect creation. This week, it was fairly obvious that a certain amount of ad lib was creeping in, and it did the trick. The key to this episode’s success was the comic chemistry between Samberg and Davies, both of whom were absolutely brilliant here. Fans of Hot Rod know that Samberg’s adept at creating characters who are both ridiculous and totally endearing. Cuckoo’s fundamentally sweet nature came through strongly in this episode, and his genuine desire to ‘help’ Ken, doomed though it may have been, was surprisingly touching. Davies has been restricted to passive-aggressive sarcasm in previous episodes, but he was allowed to go nuts here, and matched Samberg in the physical comedy stakes – a rare feat indeed. Tyger Drew-Honey shone in his subplot, and it’s a shame that he’s had almost no interaction with Cuckoo so far, as I’d love to see Dylan’s cynical ways clash with his brother-in-law’s guileless charm.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the odd-couple bromance at the heart of the show develops over the remaining three episodes. Cuckoo may have had a slow start, but it’s shaping up to be one of the comedy treats of the year.
Ken wants to be a local councillor, because he doesn’t have enough misery in his life already, apparently. Lorna acts as a sounding board for his prepared answers to the burning issues of local politics, but decides that what he really needs is the help of a young and politically aware audience. Unfortunately for Ken, she means Cuckoo. Ken’s dear son-in-law has borrowed his dungarees, thoughtfully informing Ken that he’s going commando underneath. He doesn’t care for Ken’s political statements, and Ken doesn’t care for his advice on how best to present himself to the good people of Lichfield. Rachel is worried; it’s only now dawning on her that maybe – just maybe – Cuckoo and her dad aren’t getting on. Lorna tells her that her dad is shy beneath the bluster, and intimates that she has something up her sleeve to resolve the problem.
Dylan’s still pursuing Zoë, who seems to have forgiven him for the sneaky pool photos of last week. She asks if he’s going to bring pills to the party they’re going to, and he tells her that he’s got supply problems with his Cuban dealer, Tony Montana. (I wonder if Dylan’s really seen Scarface, or whether he’s just a fan of The Lonely Island’s video with Michael Bolton? Meta’s a wonderful thing…) Zoë’s got a contact, though, and offers to pass on his details. Their conversation attracts the unwelcome attention of her ex-boyfriend, who ends up getting into a classic playground brawl with Dylan. Ken, meanwhile, is being interviewed at his office by Nina, already a Lib Dem councillor. Everything’s going swimmingly, until Nina gets a phone call. Her son’s been involved in a fight at school, which ended with his being booted in a tender place. Ken is full of concern, which is quickly replaced by horror when he finds out Dylan’s to blame. Matters go from bad to worse when he and Nina are called in to the headmaster’s office. Dylan’s totally unrepetantant, and Nina is appalled by Ken’s lax parenting. She backtracks on her earlier offers of support to Ken in his bid to get on the council.
That evening, Dylan takes a call on his mobile from someone wanting to sell him ‘Playstation games’. He does a reasonably good job of covering his tracks in front of his mother and sister, although Rachel’s a little suspicious. Ken’s back’s giving him grief, and Lorna tells him that she’ll ask Steve to bring round some painkillers. The biggest pain in Ken’s life is swift to offer a massage, despite Ken’s insistence that he’s forbidden Cuckoo ever to do that. His son-in-law’s also full of his usual insight into Ken’s dismal failure. If only he’d heeded Cuckoo’s advice… Ken snaps and tells him to get lost in no uncertain terms, to much consternation all round. The spiritual ninja is visibly hurt by this rebuff, but reassures Ken that he’s only doing this because he’s ‘embarrassed for him’. Later, Lorna breaks the news that she’s taking Rachel for a girls’ night out at Connie’s, giving Ken and Cuckoo chance to get to know each other properly. Ken takes this about as well as can be expected, which is not very.
As he rests on the sofa before the dreaded event, Dylan attempts to sneak in with a suspect package of little white pills. Ken assumes these are Steve’s prescription painkillers, and Dylan, terrified, lets him take them. The ladies head out for their night on the tiles, leaving Ken dreading his evening at Cuckoo’s mercy. His son-in-law’s suggestion that they start by exploring his ‘mind calendar’ doesn’t fill him with optimism. Lorna and Rachel arrive at Connie’s, only to find that they’re being joined for dinner by Zeb, Connie’s son, and the man she was so keen to put forward as a substitute for Cuckoo, should the need ever arise. Rachel quickly susses that the evening’s a set-up. Meanwhile, Ken is resisting Cuckoo’s calls to come and have dinner. When Cuckoo appears in a chef’s hat, insisting that Ken try his ‘beautiful repast’, Ken realises the battle is lost. The bonding exercise doesn’t go well. Ken wolfs his meal down and quickly excuses himself to go and lie down again, leaving Cuckoo looking rather glum and lonely.
However, Ken soon starts to feel the effects of the ‘painkillers’ he took with his food. The sound of Cuckoo’s music blaring from the other room gets him moving to the beat, and he starts to realise that something’s not quite right. Storming through to the kitchen, he accuses Cuckoo of spiking his food. Cuckoo protests that he’s staying off anything Class-A until his visa comes through, but, as a connoisseur of such things, quickly realises that Ken’s painkillers are actually high-grade amphetamines. He finishes off the packet, while Ken finds to his surprise that he doesn’t feel any anger towards Dylan. Cuckoo assures him that they’re about to have a great night, and Ken begs him to promise that they won’t get up to anything stupid. Cuckoo can’t guarantee that, but Ken is past caring by this stage. Steve calls with the real painkillers, only to find Ken greased up and giddy with excitement after a good going-over from his shirtless masseur. They invite him to join them, but Steve has a convenient judo class to escape to. Ken decides that now is the time to introduce Cuckoo to the joys of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Donning his Kevin Rowland-inspired garb from the early ‘80s, he sets off in his son-in-law’s potato van of dreams, all ready for a proper lads’ night out.
Rachel and Lorna are having a decidedly less pleasant evening over at Connie’s, where the latter is doing her best to remind Rachel of her long-ago snogging session with Zeb. Connie ushers Lorna to the kitchen, where Lorna scolds her for her interference in Rachel’s marriage. Ken and Cuckoo are enjoying some stunt driving in the potato van, before arriving at Dylan’s party. Ken starts to feel some pangs of conscience – should a high 45-year-old man really be gatecrashing? Cuckoo tells him to ignore the voice of reason and go for it. In the house, Dylan is reassuring Zoë that the tablets he’s foisted on her will kick in soon – they’re cut with ibuprofen. Just as Zoë’s scepticism is starting to register, Ken and Cuckoo burst in. The transcendent twosome quickly take control of the decks, and the unsuspecting teenagers are treated to the inimitable sound of Dexy’s. Ken and Cuckoo then give the kids the benefit of their dance moves.
Back at Connie’s, Zeb soon starts taking advantage of his alone time with Rachel to remind her of what they once shared. She’s keen to forget, and freaks out when Zeb begins to tonelessly sing his own adapted version of the Pussycat Dolls’ Don’t Cha. She and Lorna beat a hasty retreat. At the party, Cuckoo and Ken are still getting down with the kids. Sadly, Ken is soon falling down, headfirst into a glass coffee table. He gets back up though, blood pouring down his face, to wild cheers from his new fans. As the new best pals chill outside with a spliff after the excitement of the party, Cuckoo recounts the story of his initiation into carnal pleasures on the exotic shores of Djibouti. His partners in lust included a man who may or may not have been Robert Mugabe. Ken tells Cuckoo that their new-found friendship must last more than one night, and Cuckoo promises that not only will they be best mates forever, but he’ll also take Ken out on a drug-fuelled rampage every Saturday. As they bond, Nina pulls up to collect her son from the party. Ken forces his way into her car, and tries to plead his case. She fobs him off as best she can, and is just starting to be convinced of his passion for Lib Dem policy when he vomits copiously all over her.
Lorna is apologising to Rachel at home, reassuring her daughter that she, for one, really believes in her marriage to Cuckoo, when their husbands get back in and smother them with affection. Nothing can ruin Ken’s pleasure at the evening’s success. That is, until the early hours, when the drugs start to wear off, and the cold light of day brings with it a dawning realisation that he’s never going to get anywhere near the council.
Read Gem’s review of last week’s episode, Family Meeting, here.
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