Mr. Winner

2 out of 5

Directed by: Andrew Chaplin

covers season 1

Spencer Jones is a comedian.  If you take a watch of some of his available material, either his standup stuff or ‘Herbert Clunkerdunk’ clips, you’ll find a mash-up of Mighty Boosh weirdness, a proclivity for props, and a willingness, on Jones’ behalf, to make himself look like a fool.  There’s something admittedly charming about the purposeful naivety of his style, but I’d also say that a little of it – for this viewer, anyway – goes a long way.

Translated into a more “conventional” narrative, Jones becomes Leslie Winner, a ne’er do well supreme, always out for a job, and always trying to please his fiancee’s (Lucy Perman) dad, and always… well, ne’er doing too well.  What works is when Mr. Winner is operating in the Naked Gun format: when the humor is innocent, and Winner’s presence in ever escalating hijinx isn’t directly because of his actions, but moreso just happenstance.  This is initially really funny – getting stuck inside the house he’s agreed to paint; faking playing piano for a gig on an electronic keyboard – but also rather limited, as each half hour sticks rigorously to its one joke, and plays it out in a mix of cringe comedy and the classic UK droll sensibility, and requires for Jones to always be rather clueless… meaning that, again, a little goes a long way.  However, even this little gets overturned in the next few episodes, as innocence is lost and Mr. Winner becomes more the source of his own problems as opposed to being a hapless participant; we’re laughing at his misfortune, instead of the situation.  That isn’t my preference, and stacks on top of the repetitive nature of the humor (and the setup preventing any need for a “character” so much as someone to enact its jokes upon) to stifle the laughs rather significantly.

It’s a tricky balance, admittedly – maintaining a sense of innocence while also having a “plot” and some development – but the show proves capable of it at points, and really turns it around for a funny and even affecting season ender – which maybe makes the points when it doesn’t prove capable that much more disappointing.