Critics have slated Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi’s new gay sitcom Vicious.
The first episode saw older gay couple Freddie and Stuart, who have lived together for 48 years, hosting a wake and meeting their sexually ambiguous young neighbor.
A call back to a classic kind of comedy filmed in front of a live audience, the show worked well when showing off its camp one-liners about age and relationships.
While the majority of jokes were light, the stereotypes were not particularly offensive and we loved the camp, it was one ‘edgy’ joke about rape (‘What if he comes out and rapes me?’) that left GSN cold and should have been removed from the script.
Benjamin Secher for The Telegraph called it the ‘least funny new comedy in recent memory’.
‘There was the odd glimpse of how Vicious might have amounted to something sharper,’ he said. ‘But for the most part, the script fell disastrously flat.
Tom Sutcliffe, writing for The Independent, also criticized the script saying the writer Gary Janetti was writing a ‘depleted’ version of his American hit Will & Grace.
‘It’s delivered by McKellen and Jacobi as if they’re playing in Wembley Stadium and only the upper tiers are occupied, with a heavily semaphored effeminacy that seems to belong to an entirely different era,’ he said.
The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston said Jacobi and McKellen were ‘more like caricatures of themselves.’
He said: ‘They’re camped up to the max, actual drama queens. And they’re Acting with a capital A – thespian jousting. Take that darling, no you take that, ouch, you bitch.
‘Which is rather fabulous. Something like Frasier meets Will & Grace meets Henry V.’
While Alex Hardy, writing for The Times (£), found the comedy not to his taste, but said the script was ‘packed with zingers’.
‘It’s like Downton Abbey if the only character was Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess,’ he said.
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, praised the show.
He said: ‘A mainstream audience is now laughing with, rather than at, two grand dames of British theatre, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.
‘The first episode is a carefully crafted pastiche of a classic domestic sitcom.’
Gay actor Christopher Biggins wondered whether the show would appeal more to straight people than gays.
Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 programme, he said: ‘I think that gay people might find it rather offensive that they’re being portrayed in this way, but I think the general public, the heterosexual public, will absolutely adore it.’
What did you think of the first episode? If you missed it and live in the UK, catch up here:
Vicious continues every Monday on ITV at 9pm.