The Curse is TV’s Picture Perfect Parody

by thethreepennyguignol

When it comes to parody, it’s hard to pull off something that sticks.

Because parody, fundamentally, is limited – how much fun can you poke at one genre or style of storytelling without it getting old fast? As hilarious and fun as it can be, it’s usually got a sell-by date attached – which is why the hardest part of parody is giving it legs.

Enter The Curse. The newest project from the People Just Do Nothing crew of Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin, and Steve Stamp, I will admit that I started watching it because I found out Camille Coduri does the voiceovers and I will eat up any and everything she is willing to gift me until I finally get to see her play Pauline Mole in an Adrian Mole adaptation, but that’s aside from the point. The Curse follows a group of small-time would-be criminals who wind up pulling off the biggest gold heist in British history, leading to chaos in their personal lives and relationships as they try to cover up their crime and deal with the interest it’s brought from the authorities and other high-powered ne’er-do-wells alike.

The Curse was sold to me as a kind of caper, a parody of the eighties heist genre, and I genuinely would have been happy enough with just that – but what I actually got was a spot-on balance of parody and earnest investment in creating a good example of the genre, a self-aware but not smug crime dramedy that balances some of the funniest performances of the last couple of years with the tragic aftermath of some nice-ish people getting involved in something far darker than they’re equipped to handle, sometimes in the same scene. With season two officially confirmed, I’d like to give a little love to the first series, so let’s get into it.

The Curse is such a good example of good-natured parody, one that celebrates the genre while it explores some lesser-touched-on sides of it and has a little josh at the sillier parts, too. Led by Allan Mustafa, convincingly playing completely against his previous role in People Just Do Nothing as an adorable, loving father to twin girls who ends up with trauma flashbacks and gold bars in equal measure after his part in the heist, is the exact kind of fish-out-of-water character who helps shine a light on how ridiculous this whole thing is, while Hugo Chegwin as a wannabe-gangster-hardman reminded me of far too many people I’ve actually met in real life. The breakout character, obviously, is Tom Davis as Mick, a huge, pretentious, unmissably bizarre liability to everyone around him; if you’ve seen Davis in Murder in Successville, you know how fucking funny he is, and I promise you, this is likely the best you’re ever going to see him. Shoutout, too, to Abraham Popoola, who has a limited role in the series but commands a genuinely unsettling on-screen presence without going overboard with the excessive menace or over-acting.

The Curse has a few swipes at the silliness of the heist genre, mostly via Chegwin’s would-be toughness, but it’s also built around a genuinely compelling and unpredictable plot that deals with the actual heist; featuring great guest stars (Ramon Tikaram, Therese Bradley, and Michael Smiley) as villainous criminal bigwigs circling the actual heist-ers just to keep the stakes high, it’s got a whole lot of moving parts that come together in a really satisfying finale that leaves the door open for an interesting (and very different) second season.

Fundamentally, this is a show that uses parody as a jumping-off point for a fond and referential take on the heist genre, and that’s why it’s got so much potential. Parody is tough to get right, but in the hands of these skilled writers and comedians, it feels like it’s got legs, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

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(header image via Channel 4)