Pompidou: Matt Lucas’s silent comedy comes to BBC2

Matt Lucas and Alex MacQueen in Pompidou
Matt Lucas and Alex MacQueen in Pompidou
Matt Lucas is a bit of a comedy hero, from his hilarious cameos on Shooting Stars, to the taste- and boundary-pushing Little Britain, to the trenchant way he knocks down the idiots who try to step to him on social media. I may not like everything Lucas does, but he is one of the most original, and bravest, voices in TV comedy. Unafraid to go against fashion as ever, his new project is a “visual comedy” TV series, Pompidou, which debuts on BBC2 on Sunday 1 March.

Lucas has co-written the series with Julian Dutton, and he plays the title character: “an elderly oddball aristocrat who has fallen on hard times”. Alex MacQueen plays his long-suffering butler, Hove. And they have a canine companion, too: the elegant Marion, an Afghan hound.

New silent comedy on our screens is always a cause for joy and anticipation – so we’re very keen to see how this one pans out. There are six 30-minute episodes to come, and in each of them, we are promised, Pompidou and Hove face a new, bizarre, challenge.

An official release from the BBC suggested that the team behind the show are passionate about silent movies, and want to pay homage to their idols in this new small-screen show.

Matt Lucas says: “This is the show I’ve always wanted to make and I can’t wait to start filming.”

Shane Allen, Controller of Comedy Commissioning for the BBC, adds: “Matt has worked incredibly hard on creating a unique comedy universe for Pompidou. Only someone of his immense talent and experience could achieve something that feels so modern and inventive which also has an underlying nod to past classic comedy masters like Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. It’s rare to have a comedy the whole family can enjoy together.”

Coverage of the shoot in the Daily Mail recently focused on how silly Lucas looked in his high-waisted trousers.

The reason for posting about Pompidou today is that the first trailer has been released online. Take a look for yourself:

Well. Yes but no but yes but no but … yes? On first glance this show seems – LOUD. It’s like amped-up Tati, with the visual comedy overlaid by (lots of) mumbling and gibberish. Pompidou seems to revel, also, in the particular kind of broad slapstick I associate with classic British TV sitcoms (Lucas walking into a potted shrub with a bowl on his face, etc). There’s an intriguing twist of the surreal, too, perhaps a nod to Monty Python with that surgery gag?

It looks as if it will be every bit as vile as Little Britain, though hopefully that betokens gross-out humour rather than the creeping offensiveness that ruined that programme. The fact that so many of the comments appearing below the trailer seem to draw a parallel between Pompidou and London mayor Boris Johnson should not prejudice us against it, though that may prove a struggle.

There’s nothing in this trailer that rings any Keaton/Chaplin bells for me, though perhaps I can see a little of  the intensely physical work of Laurel & Hardy and their fine messes. Pompidou has more gross than grace, it seems. I do have high hopes for the dog, though – Marion has a certain panache.

I’m officially keeping an open mind until the season starts, and I’m certainly glad that there is going to be more visual comedy on our screens come March. Now, how am I going to get that darned theme tune out of my head?

Pompidou begins on BBC2 on Sunday 1 March at 6.30pm

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