The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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New comedy series 'The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin' stands and delivers

Associated Press Thursday, 21 March 2024, 14:10 Last update: about 3 months ago

Noel Fielding trades pastry for pistols in the new mouthful of a TV series "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin," a swashbuckling romp that's miles from the genteel tent of "The Great British Bake Off."

The English writer, comedian and TV host is a highway robber in 1735 in the zany Apple TV+ series, playing a gentle soul in the harsh world of forest-based stick-ups, witches and curses. It starts airing Friday.

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"I just forgot that I'd missed that kind of comedy," says Fielding. "I love comedy and I love weird comedy, and I'm sort of interested in these magical, fantastical realms, really."

In this madcap world, Dick Turpin is a terrible fit as a robber. He has a fondness for knitting, for starters, and prefers peppermint tea over ale. After a robbery, he asks his victims for feedback to improve the experience. "I'm new school. There's going to be less violence on my watch. More charm. Maybe even some panache," he vows.

Fielding, a writer and producer as well as star, says the humor he drew on includes "The Princess Bride," "Blackadder," "Time Bandits," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Blazing Saddles."

The series is loosely — very loosely — based on a real robber named Dick Turpin, an English outlaw not unlike Jesse James or Billy the Kid. He was popularized by 1980s pop star Adam Ant, who donned a frock coat and tricorn hat and had a hit with Turpin's famous slogan, "Stand and Deliver."

Fielding has his own model for Turpin — Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy. "He's quite an interesting character because he's not very good at shooting, he's not very good at fighting, but he has lots of ideas and he's quite charming. That's kind of all he's got, which is brilliant."

This Turpin is a butcher's son who becomes vegan and sort of falls into robbing stagecoaches. "I just feel like I'm destined to do something — something big, something creative," he says in the pilot. At one point, he announces: "I haven't been this excited since I discovered my own cheekbones."

The first episode has Turpin join a motley gang of robbers and attempt to lead them while avoiding the local evil guy, played by Hugh Bonneville, known from "Downton Abbey."

Turpin is a little eccentric, very modern and free-spirited. He actually doesn't really like violence, which creates quite a lot of tension between him and his gang and the other highway gangs, who find him absolutely ludicrous.

"We wanted to have this sort of modern character in this quite hard world with these sort of scary characters and people are getting killed around him and shot," says Fielding. "He, somehow, in a childlike, weird way, manages to avoid danger and get them out of trouble every week."

In the second episode, the gang tries to boost its rating with rivals by robbing a cursed coach. In the third, they visit London to fence some stolen gold and get in some sticky situations, including an underground fight club. The fourth deals with a witch, giving them a chance to satirize conspiracy theorists.

Kenton Allen, an executive producer of "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin," says the series is more filmic than other recent comedies — big and silly and physical.

"Physical humor has kind of fallen out of fashion," he says. "So I think we're channeling a lot of that stuff that we grew up on, which is you can be physically funny as well as verbally funny."

Fielding became famous in Britain as part of The Mighty Boosh comedy troupe in the 2000s and says he was intimidated to join "The Great British Bake Off," a massive TV hit that asked him to joke with contestants and lighten the mood. "In a sense, this is a return to what I actually sort of trained to do," he says.

Allen thinks Fielding is absolutely perfect for the part and fits in the world they've created, highlighting his sly, often bizarre humor, one with puns, gentle lewdness and pranks.

"You have to embrace what Noel brings to a show that has an element of fantasy and surreality to it," he says. "It has to be a world in which witches can exist, and emeralds the size of monkey's fists can exist, and magic is going to exist."

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