Chickens: Not Much to Crow About

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Though I only found what I saw of The Inbetweeners moderately amusing at best, the premise of actors and writers Simon Bird, Joe Thomas and Jonny Sweet’s Channel 4 comedy showcase pilot Chickens intrigued me. Mainly because period comedy, when done right (Dad’s Army, Ripping Yarns, Blackadder) is often excellent, but the show’s set up has a lot of potential. It takes place during World War I where the three leads are the only young men who haven’t joined the service, much to the bereavement of the numerous women of their Kent village. Given that it takes place in a period of transforming attitudes towards women, Thomas has described it as “a quasi-feminist sitcom“.

Unfortunately, what we saw from the pilot didn’t quite live up to its promise. Although the costumes and setting looked authentically Elizabethan, the dialogue and attitudes of the characters weren’t as convincing. Simon Bird, who plays a faux-Gervaisian character practically identical to his one from Friday Night Project and The Inbetweeners but with a beard, was easily the worst offender in this regard. More importantly, it just wasn’t that funny. As often is the case in pilots, there were too many plots attempted in the same episode and not enough time to properly flesh out any of them. Also at odds were cringy farcical elements, which came across as pretty forced and predictable. The best part was undoubtedly the headmaster character, played by Rupert Vansittart. His performance was very funny, and did well to send up the ludicrous attitudes towards disciplining children of the time.

Not a complete disaster, and one which wouldn’t be a travesty if it got picked up as it does have potential to be a nice little series, though if you’re a fan of The Inbetweeners it’s likely that you’ll be clucking “mediocre follow-up”.

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