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Crystal Ball - Ron
Posted on Monday 29 April 2013 at 9:48 pm

Vicious (ITV)


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The show Vicious premiered tonight in the UK and I just watched it online via the ITV player. I so wanted to like this from the moment it was first announced as a show about an old gay couple starring Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen. I saw the largely negative reviews hitting the UK papers before I watched so I went in with lowered expectations and I'm not sure if I lowered them not enough or too much.

Vicious felt to me almost like a 1950s sitcom about a fighting married couple that just happened to have a man playing the role of wife (Jacobi) in addition to that of husband (McKellen). The acting was over-the-top in a manner that is currently seen frequently on stage but not on TV, which tends toward more natural performances. The stereotypes played out were more often those of 1950s shrill and nagging housewife versus breadwinner but kind of bummy and verbally abusive husband (think Honeymooners) than anything campy gay, though there was some of that. The scenes were all confined to two stages, the living room and the kitchen of the couple's home, again in a feel more reminiscent of either older TV or stage than modern TV. If someone were to tell me that was the intent, that they wanted to just basically remake 1950s fighting old married couples with a gay couple as a way of commenting on just how un-other gayness should be, just how normal it is and should be treated as such, I'd buy that. I'd applaud that as a good goal and say they pulled it off reasonably well.

I'm just not really convinced that is the intent. First, that kind of thought experiment show is something that works as a short film but not a running sitcom. It can't be sustained as "irony" or commentary without just becoming the problematic thing. Second, as I said, there were some campy gay stereotypes invoked that wouldn't really belong if the intent were to just show an old style fighting married sitcom couple but with a gay couple. There were also other offensively problematic moments such as a casually racist remark and an extended run of rape talk culminating in a woman saying that telling her no one would want to rape her was a horrible thing to do. Without the veneer of consciously invoking old stereotypes for metacommentary, everything just falls apart and becomes an unfunny stream of stereotypes and offensiveness.

I don't know. I did laugh at isolated moments and kind of want to give it another shot, try one more episode. But I don't think I will. I don't think I'd enjoy it enough to invest the time and I think my current state of trying to convince myself to give them the benefit of the doubt is the best it will get and extended exposure to the show will just convince me that it isn't commenting on the problems of stereotypes but is rather just playing to the stereotypes.

Comments:

donutsweeper
donutsweeper at 1:55 am on 30 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I saw some clips and things of it and how you described it was exactly how it appeared it was going to be to me. Unfortunately. *sigh*
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 12:01 pm on 30 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. It is always disappointing when something with such amazing talent turns out to be less than stellar.
bowl_of_glow
bowl_of_glow at 5:15 pm on 09 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Aww that's so disappointing :(
I wanted to give this a try because it looked like it might be interesting, but... And this, really?

There were also other offensively problematic moments such as a casually racist remark and an extended run of rape talk culminating in a woman saying that telling her no one would want to rape her was a horrible thing to do.

Wow. NO.

That's a pity though, the premise was promising.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 2:35 am on 13 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
It really was a promising premise and such wonderful actors. Someone else on my LJ friend list liked the first episode much better than I did, while still disapproving of the rape joke because there just is no defense of that really, but it just didn't work for me.


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