TV: Mister Winner, BBC Two

TV: Mister Winner, BBC Two

Spencer Jones has clearly become something of a hot property in TV circles in recent years. As a result he has landed not one, but two TV series, last year's The Mind of Herbert Clunkerdunk and now this, Mister Winner, in which following a 2017 pilot, Jones plays lovable loser Leslie Winner.

And now prepare to be confused, because at times the two series overlap. Jones is famous for his surreal, inventive knockabout humour, which is what he did in Clunkerdunk, where his incredibly tolerant, loving wife was played by fellow absurdist comedian Lucy Pearman. In the 2017 Mister Winner pilot, Winner's girlfriend/fiancée was played by Aimee-Ffion Edwards. Now she is also played by Lucy Pearman, so maybe it is not surprising that the shows bleed into each other.

It does feel that the makers of Mister Winner were aware of this potential blurring issue and have tried to make Winner different to Clunkerdunk. The pilot had a few slapstick visual gags, but judging from the opener this series, written by Matt Morgan (Murder In Successville, The Mimic, Hospital People) and not Jones, is more straightforwarldly funny.

In the first episode for example, Leslie is helping Jemma's father Chris (Shaun Williamson) doing house clearances. Most of the stuff is junk but Winner thinks an old piano might be a nice earner and ends up accidentally landing a job playing it in an Italian restaurant. Except, of course, that he can't play the piano...

It's a fairly simple plot and it is all very amiable. I presume each week Winner ends up doing a different get-rich-quick scheme. One of the odd things about this is the scheduling – why is it airing at 10pm when it could easily air at 8pm?. It pretty much feels like conventional Only Fools-style family entertainment, unless in one episode Winner tries his hand as hardcore pornography or decides to go on a killing spree.

It has a good supporting cast. Harriet Thorpe (The Brittas Empire, Absolutely Fabulous, French And Saunders) plays Leslie’s mother Sharon, Oliver Maltman (Back, The Crown, The Kevin Bishop Show) plays Sharon’s younger boyfriend Steve, and Leon Annor (The End Of The F***ing World), is Leslie’s best mate Cooper.

Comedy fans who have seen Jones onstage or enjoyed Clunkerdunk may be surprised by this. There is no laugh track or studio laughter giving it a slightly flat feel. But Jones is always watchable, even when you can see the punchlines coming a mile off. It just seems like an odd fit for someone who is so imaginative, creative and talented.

Wednesdays from March 25, 10pm, BBC Two.


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