On the outside, BBC Three’s new comedy, Crims, has a lot going for it. Carmarthen-born stand-up Elis James stars as Luke, an impressively articulate wimp who finds himself locked up in a young offenders’ institute with his girlfriend’s idiot brother Jason (Kadiff Kirwan) after he ropes him into acting as a getaway driver in a bank robbery.
It’s a classic TV comedy set up, taking a “chalk ‘n’ cheese” odd couple and forcing them together into a confined space. But while this throwaway sitcom may shoot for a modern day-Porridge tone, it comes over more like the weaker brother to E4’s The Phone Shop, with all of the latter’s crudely juvenile humour but none of its loveable human characters.
Writers Adam Kay and Dan Swimer may strive for a high gag rate but it’s simply never funny. Most of the jokes come with an underlying tone of immature homophobia and misogyny and wouldn’t look out of place in a Dapper Laughs stand-up routine, making the comedy feel even more outdated than the sitcom classics they are trying to emulate.
But even if endless gags about anal rape and pervy intergenerational foursomes are your thing, the show lacks credibility in its execution. The prison setting is less a terrifying den of hardened criminals and more a childish playground of camp caricatures, which somewhat undermines Luke’s “fish-out-of-water” characterisation, and the characters are hard to believe in.
James may be able to rely on his well-rehearsed put-upon snob-routine but his character is frustratingly underdeveloped while the rest of the cast are a gaggle of one-note gags that never come to fruition, such as the Twilight-obsessed prison gang leader who spends much of the episode terrorising the two leads.
Gallingly, there’s still another five episodes left to air, representing a frighteningly long stretch for even the most dedicated of viewer. Here’s hoping Crims gets a reduced sentence upon appeal.
Click here to watch the first episode of Crims on BBC iPlayer – don’t say I didn’t warn you.