Club Reps the drama. That’s what this is. Minus about 150 years and with britches and bodices instead of Union Jack shorts and bikinis. But essentially it’s a bunch of feckless youths at the beck and call of ungrateful clients, rebellious in the face of bullying and bossiness.
The success of the drama about 19th century servants hinges on Joe Absolom’s cheeky charm. Fall for it, and it’s an amusing enough hour. Be immune to it, and it’s all too lightweight to appeal.
Absolom plays George Cosmo, the ambitious second footman who uses a forged reference to clinch a job at Great Taplows. He’s already tamed his rival William (Kenny Doughty with a peculiar rural accent) and, no doubt, will win the heart of nursemaid Grace, played by Felicity Jones, an actress who was hired from The Archers. She has the most amazing lips, wasted on Radio 4 listeners.
Like everyone else, George seems to do very little work. The Edwardian Country House, this isn’t, even if the butler, Mr Jarvis (Christopher Fulford) bellows and scolds with more effect than the timid Mr Edgar ever managed in the Channel 4 documentary-cum-lifestyle experiment.
Writer Lucy Gannon hasn’t exactly overstretched herself, either, throwing in just a few titbits of plot and so many characters that only a couple managed to stand out from the crowd. A statue that lost its penis, a disgruntled employee, the lord of the manor masturbating to pornographic pictures while George hid under the shaking bed, and a harmless scam involving brandy were the main elements of the tale. Whimsy rules, underscored by an overdose of jolly Celtic music.
Unwisely, Gannon chose to use modern language – “piss off”, “shagging”, “booze” – which just seemed stupid within the grandeur of the vast stately home (and heightened the Club Reps comparisons) and the only notable joke was straight out of the Julian Clary repertoire (“My back passage is still obstructed by some half-naked heathen”).