4 out of 5
Created by: Simeon Goulden
covers seasons 1 and 2
A completely ridiculous, fairly predictable hijnks show, representative of the driest and silliest of UK humor, in which the most regular and bumbling divorced dad wishes to win the affections of his most annoying and precocious son and inadvertently, when applying for a data processing job, secures instead a job with MI5. If ever there were a sitcom premise…
Episodes thereafter involve Dad wanting to show his son how cool he is; to show his ex-wife how successful he is; but having to hide the fact that he’s a spy. Not helping matters are ex-wife’s overly chummy boyfriend, or an over-zealous (for Dad) social worker, or an over-zealous (for Mom) other social worker, or a flirty/crazy boss… Basically anything that ups the ridiulousness, while we pretty much ignore any real spying pretense, to the extent that the second season quite consistently brushes it off completely in favor of those danged hijinks.
You’d laugh at this, and writer / creator Simeon Goulden finds a good balance between naivety and awareness for all of the characters to keep the humor on an intuitive edge, bouncing back and forth between safety and more surprisingly extended creativity. While that second season does enact a jarring shift with a casting change (jarring in that, in modern TV world, there isn’t some meta-attempt at justifying it; I kept wondering if it was a different character somehow), Goulden seemingly took the opportunity to rejigger the Spy world into something even more outlandishly overblown, so the divide between dry and silly humor grows even wider and the show more amusing as a result. Still, it all follows fairly predictable beats and setups and feel good moments when Dad wins over kid. So what merits that extra bump into four star territory?
Well, punnily, it’s the stars: Darren Boyd as the dad is amazing, and he’s amazing in most roles but giving him a starring spot where he can balance physical comedy with great sense of responsive timing makes me wish we could see him in such a role forevermore; Jude Wright as the kid is appropriately obnoxious, but he somehow interjects this note of relatability, even though the kid is a frikkin’ pompous pip, and I think we know by now that kid actors can make or break such things, so Wright certainly helps to make it, here; no words can possibly describe the hilarity of Richard Lindsay as Boyd’s boss; and the fantastically deadpan Dolly Wells, similarly to Boyd, gets to stretch her comedy wings, especially in the second season when her role is written with more variation than just indignant parent.
And that’s all I got for ya – an averagely written show, but with a perfect central cast. That’s the kinda gold that’s worked for shows like Brooklyn 99, and it definitely worked for Spy for its lone two season.