“Can we give it a rest…all the penis talk, it’s really unprofessional.”
Unfortunately, the second episode of ITV2s new comedy, Plebs proved to be just as mediocre as the first. Starring Tom Rosenthal as Marcus (aka, ‘Jonny’ in Friday Night Dinner), Joel Fry as Stylax and Ryan Sampson as Grumio, the sitcom, set in Ancient Rome follows the three ‘desperate young men’ as they try to ‘get laid, hold down jobs and climb the social ladder’.
Episode two began with the trio relaxing in a Roman gym- or, at least trying to relax. Commenting on the fellow gym-goers, uptight Marcus fails to see the attraction of being surrounded by scantily clad men. Nonetheless, whist getting changed, Marcus is approached by a stark naked, husky toned Cassius (Danny Dyer) who asks to borrow his towel. Unable to decline, Cassius dries himself whilst describing, (in Dyers typical geezer style) how he’s off to “meet this bird,” while Marcus is forced to listen naked. Moments later it is revealed that this ‘bird’ is none other than Cynthia, Marcus’s love interest; and if the competition alone were not enough, Cassius is also a lean, mean gladiator. The episode then plots Marcus’s efforts to impress Cynthia and eradicate Cassisus as he ‘nobbles’ the landlord into rigging the gladiators fights and, of course, it all gets a little bit out of control.
Unfortunately, Plebs proved to be quite predictable, with the main comedy coming from the more minor roles and secondary story lines rather than the ‘banter heavy’ interactions between the main cast. One redeeming sequence of the episode involved a trip to the ‘theatre’ to watch Cassius ‘the net man’ in action. The stadium scenes focused more on action and intermittent dialogue as opposed to the back and forth interactions we were almost forced to become accustomed to. Parodying a modern football match, Grumio, the slave, provides the commentary for the fight scene by shouting out lines such as “don’t get drawn in” and “that’s it my son,” and it is this understated comedy that stood out and worked well.
Upon discovering that Cassius was not ‘acting’ as a gladiator and instead, actually murdered his opponents, Cynthia swiftly dismisses Dyer who is thus heartbroken and unable to fight the new meaner, tougher opponent Marcus has set him up against. It’s not looking good for Cassius. Entering the arena the gladiator simply sits down in tears, accepting his defeat before the fight has even started. But, as before the football-style chanting begins again, encouraging Cassius to rise and prepare for battle…only for one last shout out from Stylax of “ave him Cassius,” to result in distraction and a brutal beheading (provoking the biggest laugh of the episode).
Overall Plebs is filled with more boys banter than your average sixth form block and contains more penis jokes than you can shake a javelin at. The script is rather heavy, filled with quick back and forth exchanges that aren’t exactly laugh out loud funny. One redeeming feature is the programs distinctive ska soundtrack, which unexpectedly work very well alongside this comedy. Although the great cast and Roman setting were filled with potential and ready to provide comedy, the script, unfortunately, failed to deliver. Presumably the road ahead will be filled with more trials and tribulation, gladiators and penis humour as Marcus continues to chase after Cynthia.