TV Review: Comedy Playhouse, Mister Winner, BBC1

Spencer Jones is certainly having a busy 2017. He has picked up a Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for his latest Fringe show and has filmed three sitcoms. He was in last week’s Tim Vine pilot, he pitches up in the imminent new series of Upstart Crow and this week he had his own one-off showcase for his clownish talents, Mister Winner.

I expected Jones’ leading man vehicle to be something on the lines of Mr Bean as Jones’ live shows have usually majored on physical comedy with not a lot of words. But this is a much more conventional romance, in which he plays the eponymous boyfriend Leslie Winner building up the courage to propose to his girlfriend Jemma (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) on a day out in London. 

Perhaps the reason this does not home in on Jones’ stand-up strengths is that it is not written by him but by Matt Morgan, who is best known for his TV/radio collaborations with Russell Brand but who also worked on recent sitcoms Hospital People and The Mimic. Mister Winner has the same slightly offbeat feel that The Mimic had and the same broad laughs as Hospital People, though not as many of them.

The stand-out moments, however, were when Jones did what he does best and was simply silly - donning fake teeth during a train journey or getting into a Beanish muddle on an open top bus with a super-long selfie stick. There was also a nice bit of slapstick business during a meal with Jemma's parents played by Shaun Williamson and Dorothy Atkinson in which Jones/Winner turned some naan bread into a human face. 

Whether this will be a series is another matter though. If the BBC is choosing what to commission on the basis of ratings I can’t believe that this one-off going out late and featuring a relatively unknown cast will have fared that well. I can see it doing OK in a mid-evening slot, but it does fall between two stools - neither rom-com or knockabout nonsense. Who knows though - maybe the BBC will commission a series based around Romesh Ranganathan’s cameo as a creepy Air BnB landlord who makes Rising Damp’s Rigsby look like a pillar of the community.

Watch Mister Winner on catch-up here.

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