Roman’s Empire, BBC2

by | Apr 12, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

While there were a few promising moments of lurid eccentricity, the humour is hampered by a cast awash with largely unappealing grotesques and as such at times ends up resembling being locked in an industrial factory while a bunch of self-centred lunatics compete to see who can bang a sheet of metal with a hammer the loudest.

What was good about it?

• Jase (Chris O’Dowd) and his efforts to leave his wife before, during and after she gives birth. The best line of the show came after Jase, already appearing pallid with worry and trepidation the day after becoming a father, suggests that he and the jealous Leo (Mathew Horne) should change places. “Maybe we could swap faces?” he mused deliriously.

• Although mostly as subtle and varied as a cacophony of clanging bells, whenever Roman (Neil Dudgeon) and Seb (Nicholas Burns) were given the chance to speak in a quieter tone, they did have the capacity to be funny. This occurred when it seemed as if Roman was going to comfort the heartbroken Leo after Roman’s daughter Nikki had rejected him again as they sat around the indoor pool, but instead said: “We did talk about not wearing shoes around the pool.” A line that defined his character more than the rest of the half-hour of his dreary bluster.

• And at the very end after Leo’s tape recording, which he had made in an effort to get Seb to confess to organising “spanksies” with his rugby mates, had been discovered by Roman and played to his disgusted family, Seb leaned in conspiratorially towards Leo and whispered: “If you really want ‘spanksies’, it’s Tuesdays at eight. Dummies… are… optional.”

• While the best line from Roman’s frustratingly identical daughters came from Nikki (Montserrat Lombard) as she explained to Leo about her work in zero-budget horror flicks. “Acting is a craft. A craft I want to sail on.” Once more, this was a single line that crystallised her stupidity, misplaced sense of pretension and earnest delusion she is talented.

What was bad about it?

• The fault of cramming in too many caricatures is that placing them in weird situations isn’t funny because you expect them to act bizarrely and therefore the audience finds it impossible to identify with them. Two such examples were Seb and his laddish rugby friends dressing up in nappies before spanking one another, and Roman filming the birth of his granddaughter while his daughter writhed in agony in the birthing pool – neither raised a smile because you anticipated they would act in such a manner.

• Roman himself seemed a queasy concoction of CJ from Reggie Perrin and Swiss Toni, without the former’s endearing snootiness and the latter’s touching pathos. There was absolutely no depth to his actions, he simply placed all of his affection on his family and was always shouting in exclamatory tones, delivering the punchlines in a slightly lower tone of voice.

• Seb Fuller also seemed to have been pilfered wholesale from the rogues’ gallery of great comedy characters – namely Lord Flashheart from Blackadder. But where Flashheart was a fireball of hilarious machismo and charisma, Seb is a careless etching in the sand washed away at next tide who was more superficial than actor Nicholas Burns’ other role as wilful parasite Nathan Barley.

• And of the supporting cast, there were simply too many to squeeze into the opening episode. Perhaps it would have been better if third daughter Kelly had been away at boarding school so she could make an entrance in episode two, or Roman’s wife Morwenna could have been recovering from plastic surgery in hospital.

• But sadly, even some of those characters who did appear in the first episode seemed to have exhausted their purpose before the first episode had finished. Jase’s efforts to escape from his life of twee domesticity were amusing to start with but that is all he seemed to do, nothing else. And his lack of depth was exposed when his newborn daughter started talking to him, warning that she needed him so he wasn’t allowed to flee to Thailand; something that may have been funny in episode five, but here in episode one showed desperation.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

12/04/2007

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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