Andy Samberg Stars in a New British Sitcom. Is It Any Good?

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Oct. 4 2012 4:10 PM

Andy Samberg Has a New Sitcom—in England?

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Andy Samberg in Cuckoo(BBC)

Andy Samberg’s post-Saturday Night Live career path has followed an unusual trajectory: There’s been a layover in London, where he is currently starring in a new BBC comedy, Cuckoo. The show, which has aired two of its six Season 1 episodes so far, got some attention on this side of the Atlantic after it broke the channel’s ratings record for a comedy premiere with just over 1 million viewers. We shouldn’t make too much of that apparent achievement, though. BBC Three, which is Auntie Beeb’s “yoof” channel, aimed at 18-to-34-year-olds, draws a much smaller audience than the flagship BBC One and the more highbrow BBC Two.

Saturday Night Live doesn’t air in Britain, so chances are that very few of those million-plus viewers tuned in to see Samberg. Over there, the big draws are Helen Baxendale, an actress with a long string of U.K. hits (best known stateside for her strange turn as Ross Geller’s second wife on Friends), and Greg Davies, a 6-foot-8 man mountain of an actor who played an overwrought teacher on the original British version of The In-Betweeners.

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Baxendale and Davies play Ken and Lorna Thompson, middle-class professionals from the Midlands who pride themselves on being cool—well, cool-ish; they can rap along to the lyrics of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” and they named their son Dylan—and yet responsible. At the beginning of the first episode, the Thompsons head off to the airport to meet Rachel, their med-school-bound daughter, returning from her gap year abroad. There they find that she’s gotten lots of practice holding her friends’ hair while they vomit up exotic Asian drugs and has also acquired a husband. And not just any husband, but a raging douche of a New Age American moocher known as Cuckoo.

Brits love to laugh at stupid Americans more than anything else in the world, so Samberg’s character—a lazy, self-regarding, inconsiderate idiot who dresses like a blind homeless guy—was destined for success. But the show, sadly, is a muddled bore. There’s never any indication why Rachel, formerly a smart, sensible girl, would change her life’s plans for the sake of this doofus, or why a world traveler like Cuckoo would want to leave the beaches of Ko Phi Phi Don to live in the suburbs with a dull British family. Ken and Lorna’s awkward attempts to keep their daughter from sabotaging her future while putting up from the naked meditator in their midst are endearing, but not exactly a riot.

Midway through the pilot, Ken takes Cuckoo out for a drive to one of his favorite spots. As they gaze out at the leafy English countryside, Ken starts to reminisce about his own father, until Cuckoo holds up his hand, and says: “Can I stop you there, Ken? You’re not holding my attention.” Sadly, you could say the same for the show.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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