Sky may have a new hit on their hands with You, Me And the Apocalypse. It's funny, clever, has a great cast, and features Rob Lowe as a foul-mouthed priest.
Sky have advertised You, Me and the Apocalypse in a similar way to all their own, original programmes – that is, by introducing it months in advance of its air date without ever really explaining what it is about. After episode one, the story it is trying to tell is no clearer, but that does not stop it from being a clever and funny comedy-drama.
What is clear so far is that the show will follow a number of characters, in various locations around the world, as they come to terms with the impending apocalypse. The first character to be introduced is Slough-based bank manager Jamie Winton, played by the ever-likeable Mathew Baynton. He is arrested at work and is accused of being the mastermind behind a huge hacking scandal. He is soon released and alongside his mum (Pauline Quirk) and housemate (Joel Fry), he begins his adventure to uncover why he was arrested and to locate his missing wife. Much of the first episode is spent on Winton’s story, suggesting that he will be the focus of the series going forward. This is probably a good choice as, although he may not be the most interesting character in the ensemble, his situation is intelligently constructed and has the greatest potential for drama and humour.
The characters only get crazier from there. Next, the focus shifts to a women-only high-security prison in New Mexico and Rhonda McNeil (Jenna Fischer of The Office) is introduced, a mother who is taking the blame for her son’s cyber crimes. She struggles to come to terms with the prison gangs and is confronted by a white supremacist who is after her loyalty. It’s great to see Fischer do something different and more serious, that is not to say her comedy roots don’t show through, but much of the humour is reserved for her tattooed Texan partner. The nods to Orange Is The New Black are clear, but it is not the only popular show that has had an influence. The structure of the episode is very much like the first season of Heroes but with a more lighthearted, British tone and, of course, without the superpowers – it darts back and forth between the interesting characters without explaining their inevitable connection.
The show’s name is not the only thing that has been included for transatlantic appeal (Apocalypse Slough being the original title) as Father Jude Sutton, played by Rob Lowe, is the next to be introduced. A young girl, Sister Celine Leonti (Gaia Scodellaro), is sent to an interview for a job that takes advantage of her ability to speak a number of languages. This is where she meets Lowe’s loud, offensive father, who asks her a number of questions about her faith and commitment. She soon leaves, disgusted at his behaviour, but as the news of the apocalypse is announced, she sees it as a message from God telling her to take the job whether or not she feel it is right. The contrast between the two characters is excellent – Lowe’s father is obnoxious and whilst sister Celine is initially sweet and innocent, her feisty side soon comes out. Their story line was given the least focus of the three in the first episode, probably so the crude humour does not feel overused too quickly, but the moments there were were some of the funniest.
The three situations, different as they are, work very well together, which is down to Iain Hollands’ well written script and some largely excellent performances in unexpected roles. As the episodes come to an end, Baynton’s character begins his search for his wife, alongside his mum and housemate, the prisoners in New Mexico escape after the security is hacked, and Lowe’s father leads sister Celine to safety amongst the chaos in Italy. The cast are inevitably going to meet in unexpected circumstances in the upcoming episodes, but after one hour the viewers’ understanding of what the apocalypse means for each character is no clearer.
It may not be clear what lies ahead in Sky’s ambitious new comedy-drama but episode one is a clever, funny introduction to some unusual characters with some great performances. This, alongside the promise of odd culture clashes and Rob Lowe in a cassock, wandering round Slough with Pauline Quirke, is easily enough to make you want to see more.
You, Me And The Apocalypse airs on Sky One, Wednesdays at 9pm.