Tucked away on BBC3 it would be quite easy to miss brand new prison comedy Dead Boss. But that would be a real shame (dare I say it, criminal?) as it’s actually rather good.
Although very different, it nicely fills the comedy void left by Have I Got New for You on Fridays at 9pm. Written by and starring Pulling‘s Sharon Horgan, Dead Boss is a quirky comedy following likeable main character Helen (Horgan) who has found herself wrongly imprisoned for 12 years for the murder of her boss.
Once inside she devotes all her efforts to finding a way out, with the help of her nice-but-dim arsonist cellmate Christina. But meanwhile she’s up against terrifying fellow prisoner Top Dog (who turns out to be none other than Helen’s ex-supply teacher, intent on revenge for her teenage pranks), as well as Jennifer Saunders’ brilliant prison governor who takes it as a personal slight that Helen wants to leave. On top of that she has to contend with a sister who’s stolen her job, flat and dog and an obsessively stalker-ish work colleague who Helen believes is helping her get out but clearly has very different ideas.
I wasn’t sure about it initially- the opening with a bumbling lawyer was extremely unbelievable and quite silly and some of the characters, especially the tough female prisoners seemed a bit clichéd but by about halfway through I realised I was enjoying it.
Helen is an intelligent, brave and likeable main character and Jennifer Saunders is great. It would very easy to play the governor in an OTT panto fashion but instead she is very under-stated in her portrayal which makes her far more menacing. There are some genuinely funny and clever lines and in addition a nice little murder mystery is starting to unfold.
The only thing that irritates me about this show is the unbelievable characters, the lawyer being the primary example. Such an inept moron could never be a lawyer and if by some miracle he was, he would never have been employed by a smart woman such as Helen. Since it’s usually the grain of truth that makes things funny, I find all his scenes pretty devoid of humour. Similarly it’s hard to believe that Top Dog was ever allowed anywhere near a school.
But apart from these few little things, the first couple of episodes were impressive and I will definitely carry on watching.
Take a look for yourself on BBC iPlayer