Sunday, 27 December 2009

Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire

Kröd Mändoon (Sean Maguire of Meet the Spartans) becomes a leader of the resistance, and with his merry band of outlaws searches for a way to strike at local overlord Dungalore (Matt Lucas). Sean Maguire – always decent in his US sitcom appearances – and the rest of the cast do a fair job, but Matt Lucas rules the roost from start to finish, shining in his first real acting role and making the very best out of every line. He’s clearly enjoying himself. It’s no surprise that his character gets the last scene of the last episode rather than the titular hero.

Lots of other familiar British faces are involved, both behind the scenes (Jimmy Mulville produces) and on screen, including James Murray from Primeval as Ralph Longshaft, the man who’s everything Kröd wants to be, Alex MacQueen from The Thick of It as Barnabas, Dungalore’s long-suffering vizier, and Tony Bignell as Homunculo. You probably won’t recognise that last one, but he was also in BBC3’s Coming of Age, putting the poor guy in two of the most critically-derided comedies of the year.

But I’m not sure Kröd quite deserved the kicking it got from the critics. The humour is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff (Dungalore talks of his Uncle Zanus, which gives you an idea of what to expect), but it has its moments. There’s some quite funny anachronistic chat about casual Fridays and so on. It’s no worse than say The Quest of Dick & Dom, though obviously expectations are higher for a grown-up programme. It’s much, much less funny than Radio 4’s ElvenQuest. Funnily enough, Kröd features an inversion of its rival’s dog-into-human joke, but puts it to predictably cruder purpose.

Like Robin Hood, it’s filmed around Budapest, and you do expect Kröd and his men to run into Robin’s band of outlaws during one of their many rambles through the forest. The fantasy element is fairly perfunctory, the best story being about a biclops – a cyclops who swings both ways. What Kröd reminded me of most of all was the diabolically bad Dungeons & Dragons film, right down to the Wayans-esque sidekick, but played for intentional laughs this time. You could quite easily believe the D&D movie (and perhaps Krull) to be the only fantasy of which these writers are aware. Shame, though, that it misses that movie’s best (unintentional) joke: the dwarf who was one of the tallest members of the party!

All I ask of a comedy is that it makes me laugh – whether it is good or bad doesn’t really matter (hence my appreciation of the work of Rob Schneider). Kröd manages that, though not quite as often as it could, especially when Lucas is off-screen. It was made for Comedy Central by our own Hat Trick productions, and I can’t help thinking Hat Trick would have more joy with an American HIGNFY than another series of this. But there isn’t all that much fantasy comedy to choose from – I watched every episode of Red Dwarf without ever really thinking it was any good – so if they make another series of this I’ll watch it, slightly begrudging the times it hits me with a cheap laugh, but laughing nevertheless.

Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, Series one, 6x30mins, BBC2/Comedy Central

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