A few weeks ago I was invited down to the launch of a new BBC Three series called Murder In Successville and afterwards I stayed behind to speak to the man who holds it all together, DI Sleet aka actor Tom Davis.
Described as "a brand new comedy entertainment and interactive murder mystery" it's fair to say I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew there were celebrities involved, and I knew that Tom Davis (who you'll recognise as "that tall fella" from most comedies you've ever seen on telly), was in it playing a cop, but that was about it.
I'm fortunate enough to be invited to a lot of TV screenings, and sometimes when you're shown a comedy, you feel as though you have to laugh. But when it came to watching the first episode of Murder In Successville, starring Jamie Laing, knowing when to laugh wasn't an issue, knowing when to when to stop was.
Right from the word go, the room erupted in genuine laugh-out-loud laughter and didn't stop until the episode finished, and then started again when we were shown some clips from the rest of the series. A reaction I've not seen at a screening for a very long time.
The reaction was 100% justified, and Murder In Successville, which has been two-years in the making was definitely worth the wait. I've not seen anything like it on television before, a phrase most TV shows try and claim but few can claim they're 100% original, but with this it's an entirely new format that I absolutely love. And why wouldn't I? Everybody likes a whodunit, everybody likes a celebrity and everybody likes to laugh, so when all three are rolled together the results are electric.
After the screening I simply had to stay behind and speak to the man who holds it all together, DI Sleet aka actor Tom Davis. Here's what he had to say...
First of all, how would you best describe Murder In Successville?
I play a cop, DI Sleet, in a fictitious land called Successville which is made up of weird impressions of celebrities. Alan Carr and Jimmy Carr are the Kray brothers, and every week I'm joined by a celebrity who becomes my sidekick and we have to solve a murder case. When you explain it, it sounds mental! But when you see it, it's still mental but works really well.
What type of character is DI Sleet? Is there a particular way you wanted to play him?
Just to make him as tragic and pathetic as possible really. I think this is the closest I'll get to making a Jason Statham movie... that's the dream! We were always really keen that the joke was never on the celebrities or talent that came onto the show, but the joke was always on Sleet. He's the figure of ridicule really.
Who are your celebrity sidekicks and how much do they know?
We've got Louis Smith, Jamie Laing, Dermot O'Leary, Kimberly Wyatt, Deborah Meaden and Greg James. They know literally nothing. All they're told is that they have to solve a crime and they've never met me, I'm in character most of the time. I never meet them until they come into the office.
The whole thing is an immersive situation really, where they never really know what's going to happen, and what we try and do is myself and Andy (Brereton, the Producer) and the rest of the team is keep throwing those curveballs.
Every time they think they've settled and they know what's going to happen, we twist it and we try and keep them on their toes. Sometimes we take great pleasure in having things steady out and then dial up the crazy again, I mean it's so much fun.
The show is largely improvised, but there are a team of writers attached to the show. How does that work?
Essentially we have Jason and Joel who have written for Charlie Brooker (A Touch of Cloth) and Toby Davies who's an amazing writer, all three of them are. So we have great jokes and sometimes you have a joke that in one show doesn't quite work so you throw it into another show and mix it up a little bit.
But the nature of the show really is to be funny and improvisational really so that's why you have your Cariad Lloyd's and your Colin Hoult's who can come in at any one time and change it up.
Which celebrity sidekick was the most fun to work with?
I think they all had their own thing about them... Deborah (Meaden) and Dermot (O'Leary) really wanted to solve it. I really liked Jamie (Laing) a lot, with Kimberly (Wyatt) it was a bit more paternal and was almost a father and daughter relationship.
I've worked with Leigh Francis (Keith Lemon) for a long time, and owe a lot to him really and the way he makes TV is to ensure everyone enjoys it, and that was the main thing with this really, that everyone from Kimberly (Wyatt) to the amazing team, production staff... that everyone enjoyed it.
To be honest, with Louis Smith at first, he looked like he didn't enjoy it and that at any one time he could have punched me! He got really cocky, I think Louis thinks he's in the police. I think he genuinely does! (Laughs)
Did you have any say in who the celebrities would be?
Dermot was the only one, right from the beginning that I wanted to do it. He's a friend and he's such a fun guy to be around and I think he comes across brilliantly in this. We shot with Mark Wright actually for the pilot, and he still texts me now going "How's Murder in Successes?" (Laughs)
We're used to seeing you in a lot of comedies, but never centre stage. This is your first leading TV role, that must feel good?
It does. I mean I consider myself very lucky to be working at all. I have a very humble background, from a building site in Croydon, so to be doing what I'm doing I've been very fortunate. Doing this has been absolutely crazy, it's original and different and such a fun thing to do!
A lot of shows describe themselves as "something you've never seen before" but Murder In Successville genuinely does feel very different. Is it fair to say you were influenced by other shows thought?
Yeah, Saturday Night Live and Morecambe and Wise are something we wanted to draw inspiration from. We also then wanted it to have a bit of a Sin City feel to it and that kind of blows you to go a bit more silly and a bit more puerile at times (laughs).
It's weird watching it, because you can almost show all of your family. It's just a silly good hearted show that I hope is as fun to watch as it was to make!
And what about the other celebrities in the show... Alan Carr, Darcy Bussell etc. How do you think they'll feel about the impressions?
I think they'll feel happy. I really sincerely hope that they find it funny because all the impressions come from a good place, and are written very affectionately. I hope they just really enjoy it and take it in good spirit.
If you get a second series, and I really hope you do, who would you like to see as DI Sleet's celebrity sidekick?
Aw, thank you very much. Well me and Andy have spoken about Danny Dyer and Sarah Millican for me, I think she'll be great. I think she'll laugh a lot and be amazing.
And finally, how would some up the show in just one line?
It's essentially True Detective meets Broadchurch but it's been made by a group of idiots! (Laughs)