David Tennant and Michael Sheen, Staged, BBC1, Episode One, Series Two





Some ventures lend themselves more to the “Lockdown” television model than others.

If, say, the production of “The” were staged in the manner of the summer hit by David Tennant and Michael Sheen, the audience will see nothing but a series of smoothly running zoom meetings in which beautiful people bring the best laid plans into motion and nothing stupid occurs, such as for the umpteenth time a barking dog or an editor inadvertently mutating itself. Where does that leave the joke, though?

In the first season, the Scotsman and the Welshman explained how it should go. The story was straightforward. In Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” Tennant and Sheen were to play the leads. Then Covid came along, and rehearsals had to be held via video conference. Like everyone else, after a while, the two, or their fictionalized characters (so they said), went crazy and there was a lot of hilarity between the tears.

A second series has been commissioned, and so we were back here last night, coincidentally on the eve of another lockdown: their second and our third.

A comedian hosting a talk show from his kitchen was interviewing Sheen and Tennant remotely. A big celebrity whose name will not be revealed so as not to ruin your enjoyment of the show was also present.

It is enough to claim that this star is known for his beauty. But here he was, making snarky remarks about Staged, calling it unfunny and lazy to the actors, believing it was about making things up for comedy. Like seeing the Queen making a corgi scream, it was surprising.

The curmudgeon sought to entertain Sheen. “I think some pretty brave stuff has come out of the impromptu approach,” he said, shooting back at the national treasure, “Do you believe that?”

Again, producers Simon Evans and Phin Glynn walked the fine line between “luvviedom” and a royal reckoning for all “luvvie.” stuff effectively. Viewers could relax. Viewers could relax. Television always eats itself, for good measure, with sprinkles on top.

For the Celtic pair, there was more not-so-good news that bodes well for the remainder of the series. A lot of conversation is going on about the special guest stars that are coming. The last episode featured a fairly high bar with Samuel L. Jackson and Judi Dench.

This will forever be the Tennant and Sheen show, no matter how high the guests’ profile is. Look at Pandemic’s Withnail and I, sorry workaholic gamblers strutting on the laptop computer for 15 minutes and getting worked up. It’s a story told by fools, full of rage, laughter, and bad hair seriously, meaning something or someone. Amazing.

Now available on iPlayer for Seasons 1 and 2


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