So this is what the Inbetweeners (well half of them..) did next. A comedy about a group of rather hopeless blokes struggling to adapt to their environment and being scorned by women left right and centre. Sound familiar? There’s even an over-bearing Head teacher in there somewhere..
Based in a quiet English village during the First World War, Chickens follows the exploits of three men who have for various reasons, avoided conscription and find themselves living in a community made up almost entirely of women. Unfortunately due to their perceived cowardice, they’re about as popular with the ladies as trench-foot, a situation which provides plenty of comic ammo. Jonny Sweet – who has joined his fellow Cambridge Footlight alumni here – plays Bert, a gallivanting lothario whose sole aim seems to be pulling war widows, Joe Thomas plays George a school-teacher whose engagement is on the rocks after he refused to go to war on moral grounds and Bird plays Cecil, a flat-footed pedant who failed the army medical.
There are plenty of Inbetweener connections to talk about here, but the most distinctive is certainly Simon Bird’s character, who for most of this pilot is barely distinguishable from Will. Neurotic, slightly pompous and perennially trying to persuade people that his name has been tarnished unjustly, the only thing that’s really changed is the emergence of some facial hair. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. The character works well and Bird is now rather adept at playing him. There’s also an impressive support cast of female comedy vets on show, presumably we’ll be seeing a lot more of them if the series is commissioned – a scenario that looks likely. You get the feeling that C4 wouldn’t go to the bother of recruiting Joanna Scanlon (The Thick Of It & Getting On) and Felicity Montagu (Alan Partridge’s unfortunate PA) for just one scene.
As introductions go, the trio of young writers have succeeded in creating something warm and amusing, which has plenty of potential. However said potential will need to be realised quickly because there are no knock-out laughs to speak of yet. That’s one of the few things which does separate it from The Inbetweeners..