Freddie Thornhill and Stuart Bixby have been together for nearly fifty years. Freddie is an actor, whose career peaked when he played a villain on an episode of Doctor Who (as well as a bit part as a butler on Downton Abbey). Stuart used to manage a bar, but these days stays home and looks after their flat in the Covent Garden district of London. While the two share a deep and abiding love, it would be easy to overlook it for the way they treat eat other. The title of the series is very apropos, as the barbs they trade back and forth can’t be considered anything but Vicious.
Vicious, starring Ian Mckellen as Freddie and Derek Jacobi as Stuart, showcases two legendary actors at the top of their comedy game. In the character of Freddie, you can see a version of McKellen as if he’d never achieved the fame he attained as Gandalf and Magneto. The shadow of Claudius is long gone in Jacobi’s portrayal of the put-upon Stuart.
These days, their careers all but over, Freddie and Stuart mostly spend their time entertaining their frequent guests. Frances de la Tour plays their friend, libertine Violet. She’s one of the highlights of the series. The cast is rounded out by Iwan Rheon, as their twenty-something neighbor, Ash; Marcia Warren as dotty, confused, Penelope; and Philip Voss as straight-laced Mason.
In many ways, Vicious is a throwback to the sitcoms of the 1970’s. The writing is broad, and predictable enough to be comforting to fans of those shows. Still, the episodes are not without surprises. The humor is mainly driven by the dialogue between McKellen and Jacobi. You can imagine them as a version of what Modern Family’s Mitch and Cam could turn into in another forty years. The plots are ridiculous: Violet needs Stuart to pose as he husband, Freddie her butler, to impress a sister she hasn’t seen in years; Stuart secretly takes a job as an attendant in a men’s store, and Freddie mistakenly thinks he’s having an affair; Stuart’s mother comes to visit, not realizing even after forty-nine years that he and Freddie are a couple.
Vicious showcases two stars having a wonderful time, and their enjoyment can’t help but be conveyed to the audience.
Season two of Vicious debuts Sunday, August 23 on KIXE Channel 9.