Pompidou | TV review by Steve Bennett

Pompidou

Note: This review is from 2015

TV review by Steve Bennett

Maybe Matt Lucas can take solace from the fact no one liked Paris’s now iconic Pompidou Centre when it first opened. For his new physical-comedy namesake is not an obvious initial hit either.

It’s a peculiar prospect, for sure. Pompidou is an aristocrat-on-hard-times who who speaks in semi-coherent gibberish and winds up in all sort of slapstick scrapes.Boris Johnson, basically.

Mr Bean is the obvious closest parallel, and if Pompidou could make a fraction of the receipts Rowan Atkinson’s universally exportable character has raked in, it would be a useful fillip to the BBC’s hard-pressed budgets. But for all Lucas’s cartoonish gurning, it’s more difficult to see this creation breaking out and appealing to many beyond primary school age – at least in the UK. It may have more success on the continent, it certainly has Gallic comedy sensibilities.

The tweedy Pompidou lives with his faithful butler Hove, played by The Thick Of It’s Alex MacQueen – though it could just as easily have been David Walliams – and a puppet Afghan hound, Marion – in a dilapidated caravan,. They are so poor they are not sure where their next meal is coming from.

That’s the motivation for many of Pompidou’s actions, which Lucas hoping to emulate the cunning of Chaplin’s Little Tramp to blag some free nosh. Much of the comedy, though, has far-from-cunning outcomes: when there’s a body of water, someone’s sure to end up falling in it (in this case Les Dawson’s one-time sparring partner Roy Barraclough shoves Hove backwards to the classic vaudevillian ‘wa-wa-wa-wa’ musical accompaniment) and when there’s a medical operation, the surgeon is sure to leave his watch inside the patient…

A little of Lucas’s outlandish performances go a long way. Providing a minute or two of intense nonsense on Shooting Stars is brilliant but extending a series of sketches to 25 minutes, and the interest wanes. Pompidou is childishly arrogant and petulant, fine traits in a silent comedy hero, but although he’s never overtly mean, he’s not exactly likeable either, despite Lucas’s appealingly soft, ‘who, me?’ expressions, which makes it hard to empathise over the duration.

Yet there are plenty of nice touches in the asides. When Pompidou kidnaps Hove from his hospital bed, he draws a crude face on the pillow to fool the nurses – and as they abscond, he pauses an an OCD Awareness Week poster… to straighten it. And some of the more cartoon-like moments, such as Hove undergoing an X-ray add to the distinctive feel of the show. But there are not quite enough original gags to sustain all the hammed-up scenes.

Pompidou is a commendably bold attempt to produce a style of comedy missing from TV – exactly the brief which the BBC should be following. But the problem with experiments is that sometimes they don’t quite work.

Review date: 2 Mar 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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