Have You Been Watching: The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff?

"Sorry, are you sitting on the jokes? We seem to have misplaced them."

In December, we reviewed a one off festive comedy that we assumed would be consigned to the big dustbin of Dickensian Christmas Specials in the sky. Featuring Flashdancer extraordinaire and Peep Show alumnus Robert Webb in the role of Jedrington Secret-Past, it was an entertaining (but ultimately belly-laugh light) spoof of Charlie D’s work.

It was also packed with noteworthy panel show comedians, so much so that you felt if you turned over to watch QI it’d just be showing footage of empty seats and a baffled, hurt Alan Davies. Stephen Fry played Malifax Skulkingworm – who, in case you’re wondering, was the bad guy- and David Mitchell applied his loveable, hamsterfaced charm to the role of Jolliforth Jollington.

Sadly, too many cooks were deemed to have spoiled the broth and the overall verdict (well, from us, anyway) was that the writers had more fun thinking up the names than writing actual jokes. They were basically playing Comedy Scrabble.

But is the four part series any more robust? Well…no, not really.

The first episode focussed on shop proprietor Jedrington Secret Past’s induction into a complicated pyramid scheme which he signed while drunk on ‘brindy’ (‘a sort of spirit only the rich know about’). The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff was then heavily leveraged to the shadowy Harmswell Grimstone, played by Blackadder-and-lots-of-other-things-too’s Tim McInnerny.

The shop explodes in popularity and onto the high street- cue lots of jokes about Bleak Old Shop Metro and Express putting traditional eel and fake moustache vendors out of business- and Jedrington and his wife Conceptiva make a mint, but (unsurprisingly) Harmswell is actively plotting to ruin the family and take the business empire for himself.

Which he eventually does by pretending to be the Ghost of Easter Past in a not-at-all clunky and obvious pastiche of A Christmas Carol.

We touched on Blackadder earlier: Tim McInnerny’s appearance can’t help but bring up obvious comparisons. He was pitch perfect as Lord Percy (and latterly Captain Darling), and here he is again in a historical comedy, but this time it’s one that seems to stutter rather than shine.

Bleak Old Shop has everything- if not more- going for it than Blackadder did: a rich seam of historical references to draw from, a strong cast of comedy heavyweights and a hefty budget (if the sets are anything to go by). However, unlike Blackadder they’ve forgotten to add any genuinely funny jokes.

Shame Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson weren’t free to lend a hand.

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The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff is on BBC2, Mondays at 8.30pm. You can catch up on iPlayer here

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

3 Responses to Have You Been Watching: The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff?

  1. ddjjbb says:

    Tried watching this the other night, but it’s too clever for it’s own good. Over-packed with visual gag clutter and not one single laugh out loud moment in sight, or even for me, a slight smirk!
    Disappointed.

  2. mick says:

    I watched the first episode, liked it, then it was removed from iplayer now I can’t watch the rest the bbc really do like to take the .

    • ddjjbb says:

      And they charge you for that privilege 🙂
      If 4OD can keep up pretty much everything from the last 30 years why can’t the Beeb?
      Let’s face it, we did pay for it – lock, stock and barrel!
      Just another reason why I no longer buy a license.

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