Did we like it?
An enjoyable comic romp about a pair of thieves that owes as much to the classic pre-war humour of Laurel and Hardy as it does to contemporary sitcoms.
What was good about it?
• The central pairing of Bex (Tom Brooke) and Ollie (Fraser Ayres) seemed to be based on the glorious partnership of Laurel and Hardy, with Bex as the wise, yet deluded one and Ollie his buffoonish sidekick. And while they are obviously nowhere near to that harmonious double-act (closer to Delboy and Rodney in places), there were certainly moments where a hint of a similar chemistry was apparent.
• A classic scene from Laurel & Hardy’s The Music Box was also ‘appropriated’ as Bex and Ollie broke in to a compound to steal some widescreen TVs. Bex had to gamely clamber over the wall, getting his leather jacket shredded by the razor wire in the process. But Ollie, meanwhile, had simply tried the door, and finding it to be unlocked helped Bex as he climbed down the other side.
• But even before then, we’d cottoned on to the way in which Bex was the one forever formulating hare-brained schemes to get rich, while the dumber Ollie seemed happy to go along with things, and this relationship was the clear attraction of the first episode and hopefully the series.
• And the comparison is given further, welcome, credence by Bex’s rampaging girlfriend Mel, who is furious he has forgotten her birthday. She then drives around town in a murderous rage after he turns his mobile phone off until she corners him at the warehouse, where he whimpers in the shadows. This was reminiscent of Stan and Ollie’s Blotto when ‘Mrs Laurel’ hunts down her errant husband to a bar where he is enjoying a dissolute night out with Oliver, and sets about the pair with a shotgun.
• David Bradley as the gnarled, grizzled pawn shop owner Electric who buys most of the lads’ contraband.
What was bad about it?
• New Order’s celestial Thieves Like Us wasn’t used as the theme music.
• As with almost all first episodes of new sitcoms, there’s those unavoidably clumsy moments when characters must be introduced to the viewer. And while Thieves Like Us navigated this quite well, we were a little confused by the contradictions of the charismatic Bex. One moment, he could be poetically describing the thief’s lot in life, but the next he could be using the vocabulary nicked from the dumbly ruminating jaws of a Nuts-reading Neanderthal, such as by referring to his girlfriend Mel as his “bird”.
• The BBC3 CGI puppet, that lurched into view as Bex and Mel played out the final scene to trail the next programme, was annoyingly intrusive.