TV series review: Dead Boss – Series 1 (BBC Three, 2012)
I like quirky comedies, so when I came across Dead Boss, I was instantly hooked! Helen Stephens (Sharon Horgan, also the writer of the series) works at a tile warehouse and when the boss, her lover, is murdered, she gets the blame and is sent to Broadmarsh Prison. (There’s a shopping centre here in Nottingham called Broadmarsh, so that’s an automatic giggle.)
Sharing her cell is the sweet, dimwitted, and ever so slightly stalkery arsonist Christine (Bryony Hannah). Top dog on the block is Top Dog (Lizzie Roper), who has a posse (Golda Rosheuvel, Susan Calman, Ashley McGuire, Claire Prempeh) at her beck and call, making life tough for both Helen and Christine. If that wasn’t bad enough, the prison governor (Jennifer Saunders) doesn’t like her prisoners putting in appeals, even if they’re innocent, so Helen’s really got her work cut out for her if she hopes to ever get out of prison.
To her aid is the useless solicitor Tony (Geoffrey McGivern), who, it has to be said, is more used to dealing with injuries-at-work cases than I’ve-been-convicted-of-murder-even-though-I’m-innocent cases. Helen’s sister Laura (Aisling Bea) isn’t much use either, as she can’t even track down Helen’s fiancé Justin (Barnaby Kay), who can provide Helen with a much needed alibi for the night of the murder.
At her former workplace, the company has been taken over by the dead boss’s trophy wife (Emma Pierson), which doesn’t go down well with two of the other employees. Mary (Amanda Lawrence) and Henry (Edward Hogg) start to plot. Henry also happens to be obsessed with Helen, and would like nothing more than for her fiancé never to show up so he can have her all to himself …
Last, but not least, there are a couple of prison wardens (Ricky Champ and Tom Goodman-Hill) who really try to do their best to suck up to the strict governor … and, inevitably, hilarity ensues.
Actually, hilarity ensuing is what the show is all about, realistically. A woman who gets imprisoned for a murder she didn’t commit doesn’t sound funny, except it Dead Boss really is. Helen does everything she can to get out, but when everyone else wants you on the inside, what can you do? Helen’s own sister thinks it’s fab she’s away, because the sister then gets Helen’s apartment, her dog, her job and even her former fiancé. Laura’s not a very nice sister.
McGivern, who we recently saw on stage, was fab as the incompetent solicitor, and Hogg’s Henry was zany yet … oddly charming. Hope we get to see more of him.
My favourite character, however, was Christine. She looks so innocent and sweet, yet she’s in prison for arson. It doesn’t take her much to send her into obsessive mode, and while her behaviour is more odd and disturbing than delightfully quirky when you actually think about it, I can’t help but love her.
The whole show has such an oddball feel to it, but that’s probably why I enjoy it so much. It’s something new, it’s very dark in places, and the majority of the show’s cast is female. Every little helps. Script-wise, I’m enjoying it, and I can’t wait for series two. I don’t even know if they’re making one yet, but I hope so, because Dead Boss is good, really good, and I want to see if Helen ever manages to get out of jail – even though Christine will be heartbroken if that happens … (UPDATE 2021: They only made one series. Boo!)
4.6 out of 5 tiles.