There was a time when everything Robert Lindsay touched turned to gold. From the early days as the rebellious rapscallion Wolfie Smith in Citizen Smith, to the cantankerous Ben Harper in the far too long-running My Family, Lindsay has established himself as a staple of the British sitcom.
In his latest venture, Bull, he stars as a half-witted antiques dealer struggling to keep his dusty shop afloat. Joining him are seasoned veteran Maureen Lipman (The Pianist, Educating Rita) and newcomer Claudia Jessie. In traditional sitcom style, we have a live audience, complete with over-the-top laughter and general silliness all round.
The first episode sees sweet and innocent Faye (Jessie) taking up a new position at Bull`s Antiques, only to be met by the eccentric staff. Bull himself (Lindsay) is a plaid-suited buffoon, whist his sister Beverley (Lipman) is a chain-smoking hag who, despite her encyclopedic knowledge of antiques, seems utterly apathetic towards her calling. There`s also odd-job boy Toby (Naz Osmanoglu) whose imbecilic shenanigans lead to the mandatory mishaps required to keep the comedy rolling.
The premise of episode one involves the restoration of a set of Faberge eggs for a kindly bossa nova obsessed shopkeeper played with usual nincompoopery by Little Britain`s Matt Lucas. After Toby makes a rather crunchy omelette, the team must somehow craft a replacement egg before the shopkeeper comes to pick up the eggs for his wife`s birthday. Chaos ensues and all manner of things go awry before Mrs. Shopkeeper finally gets her eggs back in a range of different pieces.
Bull really hails back to the old school of British sitcom. There are elements of Are You Being Served? here, peppered with a very soft seasoning of Black Books, but unfortunately, most of the jokes feel very dated. There are repeated puns and the jokes that don’t simply fall flat are often laboured to the point of paint drying. The slapstick and general ridiculousness give the show a much more CBBC feel than that of an adult sitcom. Indeed, there were times when I half expected Basil Brush himself to pop up on Lidsay`s shoulder. The laugh track does nothing but undermine what hope of jokes there could have been, as the studio audience seem to have been ordered at gun-point to laugh any time a character opens their mouth or gurns.
Britain has been screaming out for a great new sitcom for years now. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Lipman (about the only saving grace in her sheer cynicism), Bull is not it. Go crack out your Blackadder boxsets instead.
2 / 5
Dir: Simon Gibney
Scr: Gareth Gwynn, John-Luke Roberts
Starring: Robert Lindsay, Maureen Lipman, Claudia Jessie, Naz Osmanoglu
Prd: Jack Cheshire
Number of Episodes: 3
Episode Runtime: 22mins
Bull begins on Gold on 21st October.