Year Of The Rabbit | TV review by Steve Bennett © C4
review star review star review star review star review blank star

Year Of The Rabbit

TV review by Steve Bennett

Brash, sweary and massively over the top, Year Of The Rabbit plays to all of Matt Berry’s strengths as a larger-than-life performer.

Based on the inspired idea of transplanting a violent no-nonsense 1970s copper character into the brutal world of Victorian East End London where he surely belongs, most of the comedy comes from the Sweeney-style disregard for any niceties in a world full of amoral scum. And that’s just Scotland Yard.

The script comes from Kevin Cecil and Andrew Riley, whose long list of credits includes Gnomeo and Juliet, though you’d hardly put both projects into the same category. Rather than shy away from any clichés of the cop drama, they fully embrace them – starting with the fact that every cop needs to be paired with an ill-matched partner.

For Berry’s Rabbit that means the delicate Cambridge graduate Wilbur Strauss (Freddie Fox), who gets a rude introduction to real-life policing away from his criminology books.

But both are outsleuthed by Mabel – Chewing Gum’s  Susan Wokoma – who’s determined to become a detective (or 'filly-fuzz', among many suggested alternatives) even if that’s no job for a woman in 19th Century Britain. She wants a future that’s more than being ‘strangled girl in fog’.

If that sounds like a dig at the usual fate of any young woman in a TV crime procedural, it’s surely deliberate, as the show gets more than a few laughs from its anachronisms. Witness the gruff police chief Wisbech (Alun Armstrong)  talking about ‘socio-economic reasons’ and the aggressive coppers coining corporate-style mission statements about ‘working together for a safer city’.

Wishbech has some odd terms of his own, too. ’Remember who wipes your arse’ could become the ‘I hear you Clem Fandango?’ in the lexicon of cult catchphrases. Cecil and Riley have an ear for a daft turn of language, and Berry definitely has the voice for it.

Rabbit also has an internal nemesis in the form of the charlatan  Tanner, played by one of the few comic performers who could give Berry a run for his money in the overacting stakes, Paul Kaye. Plus there are some great cameos and silly incidental performances from a cast that seems to be having the time of their lives.

Year Of The Rabbit is about as subtle as a bonk on the nogging with a truncheon, but that’s its strength - that it has so much swagger about its own extravagances. And from its unvarnished sensibilities emerge, some very strong, if broad-brush, jokes.

Review date: 10 Jun 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.