The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff Review
The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff was one of those shows that I was a bit nervous about before watching. It fits into one of those categories of programmes that you really want to be good, and will be disappointed if it isn’t. The cast was made up of actors and comedians that I love (David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Stephen Fry and others), so if I realised that I wasn’t enjoying The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, it would have been more annoying than say if I was watching Desperate Scousewives, which I know is going to make me want to jump infront of a horse and carriage (topical comedy on account of the main programme being discussed). Thankfully, I really enjoyed it!
Being an adaptation of Bleak Expectations from BBC Radio 4, it was always safe that the wit would be there, but the addition of television and the visual jokes could have easily made the programme feel like a sketch that is going on for far too long and take away from the emotional involvement in the story. However, these things were balanced really well. Borrowing from a number of Dickens’ novels, the programme features Robert Webb as Jedrington Secret-Past, whose family runs into problems when approached by Malifax Skulkingworm, played perfectly by Stephen Fry. Jedrington has to save his family and his shop from the debtor’s prison, “The Skint”, along the way meeting a range of different characters, including David Mitchell as Jollington Jollyforce, the “happiest man in the world”, who was definitely the highlight for me.
It is witty and silly without being too stupid. It reminded me of the elements of a pantomime without the parts that make you cringe. Most importantly, it’s fun, and should be enjoyed as that and not taken too seriously.