Yet another pilot being broadcast by Channel 4 as part of their ‘Funny Fortnight’ strand, Toast of London saw failing actor Steven Toast (played by Matt Berry, who also wrote the show with Arthur Mathews) forced to go from job-to-job and person-to-person in the hope of finding work and diverting attention from the controversial play which he is currently appearing in. At least, I think that’s what it was about…
You see, this pilot episode just seemed so messy and lacking a plot it was hard to stay engaged. There were so many sub-plots going on which were barely even related that it was difficult to keep-up and make sense of it all. Also, the characters didn’t seem to be developed in any way: they were just actors whom I recognised playing people in whom it was a challenge to be interested. Even the title character, Steven Toast, wasn’t developed! I mean, I gauged that he was somewhat miffed by his lack of acting work but that’s about it – there wasn’t much else to draw from the man. Even if the supporting characters were left not being up-to-much, the lead should have been given some personality!
Then again, maybe the failing of Toast as a character was down to the casting of Matt Berry. I have nothing against Matt – I thought he was a brilliant comic actor when I first saw him but now it’s really difficult for me (and I’m sure others) to see him playing a role. To me and many other comedy fans, he will always be The IT Crowd‘s horrible boss Reynholm, and to almost everyone he’s the owner of the instantly recognisable voice we hear on so many things nowadays. In particular, if you’re a listener of Absolute Radio, you most probably won’t even be able to watch him even in The IT Crowd without thinking of him saying “The Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio…”
The covering up of Toast’s illusive controversial play was silly, too. Watching Berry and others mouth the name of the production whilst some loud, distracting noise played was annoying and – in my view – pointless. It was similar to what writer Mathews did with Graham Linehan on Father Ted in one particular episode when they didn’t want any of the viewers to guess the name of housekeeper Mrs. Doyle, so they had people say the name whilst plates were being smashed, alarms were going off, etc. Now there was a reason for this – for three series we had known Mrs. Doyle simply by that name and it was fitting for her to be known as this as a housekeeper. Plus, it was suitable for the far-fetched, often slapstick nature of Father Ted. With Toast of London, however, it just seemed ridiculous.
There were some good moments, don’t get me wrong (Matt Berry’s camp voice and his repeated shouting of “Yes!” when doing a voice-over did make me laugh) but they were few and far between. Two genuine laughs in a half-hour show isn’t too good, and more than I’d expect from such renowned comedians as Mathews and Berry. I was quite disappointed.
Contributed by Matthew McLane Follow Matthew on Twitter