3 out of 5
Created by: Sharon Horgan, Holly Walsh
Sometimes you can just get by with the right attitude. Dead Boss – a 6-part comedy series – stars Sharon Horgan as Helen Stephens, who, within the first few minutes of the first episode, is sentenced to 12 years jail time for the murder of her boss. She’s innocent! she claims, and because of the jaunty music and mugging of all involved – including her incompetent lawyer (Geoffrey McGivern), who has to be begged by Helen to do the bare minimum, and her sister, who immediately asks if she can take over her flat – we believe her, knowing this to be a comedy of naive and incompetent characters and mostly nonsensical situations. As Helen is then walked through the day-to-day of prison life, bumbling into and out of gangs and Top Dog status, and we’re exposed to infinitely more mugging, it’s clear that Dead Boss’ is going to stay in this goofball styling (though presented with a droll tone, because it is British, after all), and the backgrounded mystery of ‘who killed Helen’s boss?’ probably won’t matter all that much.
But here’s the thing: supposing you have a tolerance for the humor and tone (which, as suggested above, you’ll know pretty quickly), everyone is so game for the silliness – from top to bottom – that it works in a kind of Naked Gun fashion, in which there’s just humor from how ridiculous it all is when stacked next to how it’s “real” for everyone within the narrative. That confidence is infectious, supported by Horgan’s spot-on comedy chops and timing, striking a good balance between self-aware and stupid for Stephens, and helps to keep a grin on one’s face even when several beats pass by without a direct joke or visual gag.
And if you did just want to follow the story, it… exists! True to form, it doesn’t really matter, but there’s at least a loose “point” to each episode and for the various characters’ motivations, giving us enough distraction material for the 30-ish minute segments. Although, be forewarned – big ol’ spoiler – said story is also left open for a season 2 which never occurred, meaning it was never resolved.