Monday 29th April

9pm, ITV

Catching thespian legends Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi on stage at the same time is as rare and precious a thing as a primetime Saturday night show on ITV which is not hosted by Ant and Dec.

‘BUT SUCH A PHENOMENON DOES NOT EXIST!’, you cry, thumbing through your TV guide with fervour, attempting to find a single show on ITV which does not feature the Geordie duo, let alone on Saturday night which is, in fact, sponsored entirely by Ant’s forehead*.

But miracles do happen, viewers. Though Ant and Dec sadly remain the undisputed Kings of ITV, there are a couple of new ‘Vicious Old Queens’ on the televisual block. The show’s final, snappier (and perhaps less inflammatory) title, Vicious, describes the tone of pretty much every remark to come out of the protagonists’ mouths throughout each ridiculous show.

McKellen and Jacobi star as a homosexual couple who appear to be deeply unhappy with their lives; a fact which each attributes almost entirely to the other’s mere existence. Insults about “grey cataractsâ€? and failed acting careers fly as the pair warm to their venomous theme, delivering one liners as though they were written by The Bard himself. The dissatisfied 70-somethings live in their deliciously dingy bubble as a pair of virtual recluses; slinging catty remarks and regretting most of their lives together is their modus operandi.

The sheer nastiness of certain comments had me recoiling into my sofa at times, toes clinging to my leopard print slippers. Like all the best comedies, however, Vicious remembers to inject some bittersweetness into proceedings. After one particularly vile exchange, the pair find themselves utterly unable to resist making things up over a glass of Rioja. The truth of the matter is, they are deeply in love. This is a fact which does not escape either the audience or the couple’s closest friends, who consider their bickering to be entirely meaningless.

Unlike the tired drudgery of many of its ITV predecessors – where mere mention of the word ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ was enough to send audiences into hysterics –this pair are funny and HAPPEN to be homosexual, as opposed to funny BECAUSE they like men.

Together with the outstanding cast and some truly toe-curling writing from Gary Jenetti (who has also worked on Family Guy and Will and Grace), Vicious is a bold and incredibly welcome break from the TV norm.

*not true…it’s also sponsored by Dec’s ego

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