REVIEW: Witless – marks for effort but needs a touch more wit
In what has been dubbed the “female version of The Wrong Mans” – but with a significantly smaller budget – flatmates Rhona and Leanne witness a gang-related murder and are forced into the witness protection programme. This unforeseen upheaval comes at a rather awkward time as Rhona was hoping to escape her rather enthusiastic flatmate by moving house.
Leanne enjoys her new creative freedom, utilising her BTEC in acting to bring “depth” to her new character. However, Rhona struggles with the jeopardy of the situation and jumps at the slightest scare.
Kerry Howard (Leanne) starred as Laura in Him & Her and made a brief appearance in I Give it a Year alongside Rose Byrne and Anna Faris. She has comedic blood in her veins as the little sister of well-known stand-up Russell Howard. Zoe Boyle (Rhona) has made the leap from drama to comedy for this show as she was previously known best for her roles on Downton Abbey and Sons of Anarchy.
The two work well together in a typical “odd-couple” or funny gal/straight gal dynamic with Howard providing the obligatory “doh!” moments and Boyle erring on the side of realism with her frequent panic attacks.
At this time, after just the first episode, other characters are very much secondary but we have high hopes for the teen delinquents played by newcomers Nicholas Fruin and Tom Cawte. Their naivety and bravado make for a lethal combination; yet they provide many of the comic moments of the opening episode. Also making an appearance is John Inverdale who contributes a charmingly funny cameo as the presenter of a witness protection instructional video.
The mundane has a starring role in Witless; from the instantly comic Bristolian accent to the bleak vista of an almost empty strip club in the afternoon. It is this combined with the snappy editing and intriguing concept which works well for the sitcom. A short blast of content at only 28 minutes – a rare occurrence these days – also works in favour of Witless. Unfortunately it can also be damaging as the already formulaic comedy, heavily relying on stereotypes, only seems more predictable.
Witless is an entertaining, half-hour romp with two naturally funny female leads and a whole lot of potential. This pilot episode has enough to keep our funny bone satisfied without really splitting our sides just yet.
Take a first look at the show here:
Witless is available to watch now on BBC Three and will air on BBC One at 11:25pm tonight (29.04.2016).