‘Spy’: Episode 1 review

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Sky1 have been having a good run of original comedy lately and Spy may just be their best effort yet.

Written by Simeon Goulden (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Spy is incredibly easy to like, especially as it doesn’t fall back on the usual clichés and spy parodies that have already been done to death. In fact, at heart it isn’t really about spying, but rather the problematic family life of protagonist Tim (Green Wing’s Darren Boyd). His 9 to 5 espionage is just another complication he must contend with.

When we first meet Tim he’s a divorced 30-something dad with a dead-end job at a computer shop and a young son who is vastly smarter and more mature than he is. One simple mix-up later, he accidentally lands himself a job working for MI5 as a spy.

Tim continues the great British sitcom tradition of the loveable loser, particularly when he’s in the presence of ex-wife or his son. Jude Wright as son Marcus is an obnoxious know-it-all 9-year-old who manages to be both funny and so annoying you could strangle him all at the same time. It’s a very fine line, but one that’s balanced perfectly. Like a young Niles Crane but ten times as acidic, Marcus is one of the show’s strongest components and gets some witheringly verbose put downs.

Spy‘s humour is fairly gentle by today’s standards but it’s still very clever and very funny, with some great lines from every member of the cast. As well as ably playing the fish out of water, Darren Boyd has a brilliant knack for physical comedy – his exit from an exam room is so ungainly it makes you cringe – and hopefully we’ll get to see more of it as the series continues.

The ensemble cast includes Horrible Histories‘ Mathew Baynton as uber-cynical computer repairman Chris (keep an eye on his name tag throughout the episode for a familiar 30 Rock-style running gag) and Pulling’s Rebekah Staton as ambitious spy Caitlin.

However, despite his limited screen time in the opening episode, it’s Robert Lindsay who steals the show, and many of the best lines, as The Examiner; a devil may care ‘M’ figure with a penchant for scotch and Ninja throwing stars. It’s a role far removed from his My Family days and Lindsay looks like he’s having a whale of a time with it as he delivers ridiculous lines with a wry smile. “You’re a cool guy, Tim,” he purrs, “…smoking cool.”

And ‘smoking cool’ is a pretty good way to describe Spy; a dysfunctional family comedy cleverly disguised as a spy comedy, blending both aspects seamlessly. With a strong pilot (never easy for a sitcom) and plenty of promise, this is one new comedy that it’s worth keeping under surveillance.

Airs at 8.30pm on Friday 14th October 2011 on Sky1.


> Buy Series 1 of Spy on DVD on Amazon.