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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Toast of London: Matt Berry is as funny as ever as Clem Fandango and the rest of the gang return

I think the mark of a popular sitcom is when at least one of its catchphrases enters the popular vernacular. So as the line 'I Can Hear You Clem Fandango' has become commonplace then that must mean that the brilliant Toast of London has garnered popularity over the last few years.

Voiceover booth hipster Clem Fandango does indeed make an appearance at the start of tonight's opener as it reveals that he and Danny Bear may have found a replacement for Matt Berry's demanding Thespian Steven Toast. But the bulk of tonight's episode is dedicated to Steven's appearance on the Lorraine Show to promote an upcoming performance of Macbeth which the actor learns is being broadcast live on TV. During the interview an inebriated Steven also tells his Stanley Kubrick story which inevitably sees he and agent Jane Plough fearful of their lives.

The Custard TV were lucky enough to attend a screening of the first two episodes of the series in which Matt Berry discussed where he got the inspiration for the Stanley Kubrick plot. He explained that he'd seen a film which had hypothesised that Kubrick had helped fake the moon landings and wondered what would've happened if Toast had inadvertently stumbled upon the cover-up. I personally thought that this part of the plot was expertly handled and had a great pay off which rounded off the episode perfectly.



If anything I found the lead story about Steven's stage fright to be rather weak despite it adding fuel to the fire of Toast's feud with nemesis Ray Purchase. It also allows the brilliant Alan Ford to send himself up as somewhat of a self-help guru who tries to get Steven to ungrip himself from the pole he can't keep himself from hugging. Nevertheless I found the stronger episode of the two to be the one airing next week in which Steven and flatmate Ed are drafted in to be judges at a well-known beauty pageant.

At the screening both Berry and co-writer Arthur Matthews were praised for creating the first successful sitcom that was about the theatre even though the former revealed that Channel 4 initially didn't want it to seem too stagy. Matthews also went in to detail about how he and Berry come up with the names of each character adding that he felt that not many comedy writers both with crafting names such as Peggy Plywood or Clancy Moped.  Berry added that he thought the names were perfect for those in the acting profession who usually have a normal first name followed by a surname that sounds like an inanimate object.

As well as watching the first two episodes, we were treated to a show reel of the various guest stars that will pop up during the series. Among them was Jon Hamm who appears as an exaggerated version of himself whom Steven becomes instantly enamoured with. One intriguing scene we were shown saw Hamm appear alongside Brian Blessed with the pair making quite a unique on screen pairing. According to Matthews, Hamm's first scene after getting into the UK was the one in which appeared with Blessed and both he and Berry aren't sure if either knew who the other was. Matthews and Berry also spoke fondly of working with another guest star, Timothy West, who appears as an old acting chum of Steven and Ed's.

Although Toast of London couldn't quite be considered one of the best sitcoms of the past few years it's definitely one of the funniest. Watching it in a small screening room surrounded by a lot of other people was an odd experience but one that proved that everybody finds the show as hilarious as I do. The gag ratio throughout both episodes is very high and those aforementioned character names are particularly amusing. Matt Berry has to be applauded for his role as Toast as, contrary to popular belief, he isn't anything like his character in real life. Indeed Berry told us that when he meets people for the first time they're surprised when he doesn't murder them or try to have sex with them.


Judging from what we were shown at the screening I have a feeling that this might be the most accomplished series of Toast so far. With all the jokes hitting the right notes and the high level of respectable guest stars I do feel that Toast of London is fast becoming one of Channel 4's most reliable shows and I'll definitely be watching even if I can't always hear exactly what Clem Fandango is saying.

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