Some of you will remember Toast Of London from the Funny Fortnight pilot of the same name back in August 2012.
The pilot, written by Matt Berry (The IT Crowd) saw him play Steven Toast, an eccentric middle-aged actor with a chequered past who spends more time dealing with his problems off stage than performing on it. The pilot proved to be very successful, was very well-received by viewers and critics alike, and even made it in at number 31 on the Radio Times list of the Top 40 TV Shows of 2012 despite only being a pilot.
So Channel 4 would have been foolish not to offer Berry a full series. Luckily they chose not to be foolish, and commissioned a six-part series which began last night on Channel 4. If I had to sum up last night's episode in one word, it would have to be - hilarious.Matt Berry is one of the UK's more eccentric comedy actors so I can totally see why he wrote Toast Of London and more importantly why he handed himself the lead role. And too right too. I couldn't possibly think of anyone else who'd be able to play Steven Toast so well.
The first episode opens with Steven jumping into bed with Jemima Gina, played by Morgana Robinson (Very Important People). Other than collecting beaks, she seems fairly normal. Oh and then there's the electronic for attempted murder of her ex-boyfriend. This is enough to put Toast off sleeping with her... for now. As she's never far behind. So yeah, when I said normal, I meant to say anything but.
Early on in the episode we learn that Toast has won a 'Best Actor' award from trendy Bra'z' Magazine. His agent Jane Plough, played by Doon Mackichan, (Quick Cuts), is quick to secure an interview with Jemima and journalist Susan Random, played by Emma Fryer (PhoneShop). Following their interview, they agree to meet each other again for a walk along the canal. And it's there that Toast finds out she loves to throw shopping trollies into the canal.
So essentially the episode is all about a love triangle between an eccentric middle-aged actor, a woman who wears a tag and collects beaks, and a woman who loves to throw shopping trollies into canals. Oh and did I forget to mention that she's also an alcoholic and a serious hoarder. Not exactly the girls of his dreams I'd imagine. Oh and at the end of the episode, there's a realisation that in fact both girls collect beaks. Poor Steven.
To make matters worse, wherever Toast is, Jemima is never far behind. When he leaves the restaurant after his interview with Susan, she's there beeping away as she's hit the 10 mile radius she's allowed to stay within. Then when Toast is in the pub with Susan, that familiar beeping returns and one quick glance over his shoulder, Toast spots her outside the window waiting to pounce. Here stalking doesn't end there, as even when he's stuck in a pile of
And as if this comedy couldn't get any more bizarre, or indeed any funnier, they break into song shortly before Jemima is whisked away in a police car.
As with any good comedy, there's always a sub plot and in the first episode of Toast Of London this comes courtesy of Toast's flatmate Ed Howzer-Black, played by Robert Bathurst. Ed has invited his old friend Kikini Bamalaam, the daughter of the Nigerian ambassador, to stay. What's funny about that you say? Well, her latest batch of cosmetic surgery didn't exactly go to plan and now she resembles a certain Bruce Forsyth. Which is fine as long as nobody mentions it.
And yes, you guessed it. In true Toast style, it's not long before he lands his foot in it, and the second she walks through the door he says to her is "Nice to see you to see you..." and then when trying to backtrack and make things better, he's struck by a bout of Tourettes where he can only repeat the word 'Strictly' over and over and over and over again. Not the best thing to happen when you're trying to ignore the fact that the lady standing in front of you looks like Strictly Come Dancing host Bruce Forsyth.
For me, the one fault I could find is that Steven's agent, Jane, wasn't in it as much as I had hoped. But hey, it's only episode one, and brilliant performances from Emma Fryer and Morgana Robinson certainly made up for it. That and the fact that it's only the first episode so I'm sure there is plenty more Jane to come.What with Toast Of London starting life as a pilot, I was a little bit worried that, last night's episode would just end up being a tweaked version of the pilot we've already seen.
However, it didn't go down the same route as PhoneShop and rehash the pilot, instead what we got was half an hour of brand new comedy. Although a part of me did miss that famous YES scene from the pilot.
As I'm sure you've already gathered, I really enjoyed Toast Of London, and can't wait to see how the rest of the series progresses. Toast Of London joins a lot of great Channel 4 scripted comedy at the moment including; London Irish and Man Down. If I had to pick a winner, my favourite, it'd have to be Toast Of London - as it's exactly what comedy should be. Stupid and very funny.