A quintessentially ‘British’ comedy. Plebs is a sitcom about three young men running a bar in the city. Attempting to do all the normal things which men in their early 20s are want to do – and they just happen to be Romans. Series 5 sees the return of Marcus, Grumio and Jason as they continue to find themselves in situations where in spite of what may seem to be their best efforts – things don’t often go their way.
With a sense of humour firmly on the ’silly’ end of the scale Plebs feels like a sitcom that has found its niche and will remain there comfortably without ever feeling the need to change or ‘reinvent’ itself. Whilst the showrunners deserve a not-insignificant amount of credit for sticking to what they know, as the fifth series opens it’s hard but to not feel like the content is wearing a little thin.
The first couple of series of Plebs managed to straddle the line between the foolish and the absurd – whilst retaining a sense of novelty – however as with the old adage about the ‘rule of three’ with comedy. The series is now feeling distinctly tired. The departure of Joel Fry after the end of the third season has left a hole in the dynamic of the three central characters that – for all his merits – Jonathan Pointing is unable to fill.
Ryan Sampson remains the shows undisputed highlight – with his portryal of the hapless but harmless Grumio providing the majority (and largest) of the laughs. Although even this doesn’t help rescue what is now sadly a series that has succumbed to the law of demising returns.
The scripting feels lacklustre and tired. With the episodes tending to plod rather than progress which ultimately left me wanting to watch the shows earlier episodes instead of continuing on with something that felt altogether less engaging, and crucially not as funny.
It’s not for nothing that many of the most successful television comedies ended with what felt like so much more still to say, and for those which continued beyond a couple of series they did so successfully because they managed to maintain a broader cross-series arc (think Jim & Pam in The US Office or Rodney and Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses).
There is certainly an affection that I felt for the three central players in Plebs but I lacked any strong emotional investment to any of them. For a show that was originally described to me as ‘The InBetweeners but in ancient times,’ it lacks the crucial factor that whilst I was a teenage boy, I never lived in Ancient Rome.
Scr: Tom Basden
Cast: Tom Rosenthal, Ryan Sampson, Jonathan Pointing, Tom Basden, Amanda Holden
Prd: Tom Basden, Caroline Leddy, Sam Leifer, Teddy Leifer
Music: Oliver Julian
Country: United Kingdom
Runtime: 200 minutes
Plebs Series 5 is out now on DVD. A boxset of all five series is also available.