Cardinal Burns is not subtle comedy. The eponymous Cardinal and Burns have constructed a handful of Grotesques for their début television sketch show; an Über macho Lady Killer, a suburbanite Banksy, as well as an extravagant French animal trainer for film and television. (The animal, in this case, is an anthropomorphic French fly, which smokes what I assume to be Gauloises.)
Cardinal Burns starts bombastically, a fast paced homage to 28 Days Later where a man on a bicycle pedals furiously through a tunnel to escape a group of sprinting zombies. It’s a short sketch, and perhaps the most representative of the show itself. It’s impressive cinematography serves as a reminder that Cardinal and Burns met at film school. This led me to expect a gag addressing the oft-questioned lack of bicycles in zombie films (c.f. Daleks and stairs), or maybe even a comment about the dangers of cycling through rush hour London. I was wrong. The sketch ends with a zombie eating the hapless cyclist’s knob. They might as well have superimposed a large arrow pointing to the E4 logo on the upper right corner, then narrated some marketing data about the channel’s intended demographic. Young people! Dick jokes!
Yet, after a disappointing start, Cardinal Burns hits its stride, the scene with the frenchman and his fly is terrifically silly. The over the top French stereotyping was hardly elegant, but was as fun to watch as, I assume ,it was to film. The spoof of a police procedural which is interrupted by a prolonged orgy of vomiting made me splutter out a laugh, although I remember laughing when Family Guy did a similar vomiting scene several years earlier.
As such, Cardinal Burns was a frustrating watch for me and I mean that in the best possible way. The best sketch involved an actor auditioning for an advert, following absurd and contradictory instructions from the director. It’s by no means an original premise for a sketch, but it worked because of the superb delivery on behalf of the actor playing the role of the director, who delivered his lines with such plausibility that I assume he has in-depth experience of Shoreditch wankery. Unfortunately, the physical comedy was too dominant, to the detriment to the rest of the humour.
If Cardinal and Burns can redress the balance, then there is a lot to look forward to..