TV: Upstart Crow, Food Of Love, BBC2

This second series of Upstart Crow has felt a little under the radar. I'm not sure whether that is to do with the blink-and-you'll-miss-it 8.30pm scheduling or the fact that we are now not so pleasantly surprised by Ben Elton's Blackadder-ish turns of phrase as we were first time round. It's been good but it has not really blown me away.

Another reason for its weakened weekly impact may be that since it returned the full series has been available on iPlayer. Which is why this is billed as a review rather than a preview, even though at the time of writing the episode has not been broadcast yet.

Anyway, all of this think-piece flummery aside, this fourth episode, entitled Food of Love, is a good one. Mainly because it features a dishy cameo from Noel Fielding as Thomas Morley, an Elizabethan superstar composer who is part-Mick Jagger and part-Fielding himself (with a touch of Seann Walsh accidentally in there too, methinks).

Shakespeare is looking for a way to sex up his plays and has the idea of adding music to them. In the process, he takes the credit for inventing the jukebox musical a few centuries before Ben Elton's own We Will Rock You. It's one of a number of knowing contemporary references, also including Morley making sure he keeps his tax bill down (a dig at Gary Barlow? surely not sirrah?) and Shakespeare's coach back to Stratford being delayed by leaves on the road.

The novelty of the Elizabethan language has slightly worn off – as has the novelty of Spencer Jones' Ricky "edgy comedy" Gervais impression – but this is still a series packed with ideas and funny lines. Somewhere along the way Elton even finds room for the plot of Twelfth Night. At least I think it's Twelfth Night, I never did pay that much attention in Engish class. If I did I might enjoy this even more. 

Upstart Crow, Mondays, 8.30pm, BBC2. Or on iplayer here.

 

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