If I could have picked only one show from 2015 to return in 2016, it would have honestly been the ambitious, unique and hilarious Murder In Successville, the improvised BBC Three comedy where real celebrities play sidekick to detective D.I. Sleet, played by Tom Davis.
Sleet operates in the fictional town of Successville, a surreal place with a high celebrity homicide count. Each week, the city’s unique and loveable detective D.I. Sleet enlists the help of a genuine celebrity sidekick to solve the latest high-profile murder.
In the first episode of the new series, there’s been another murder in Successville, but this week the suspect is D.I. Sleet! It’s the job of his new rookie Vicky Pattison, to try and clear his name and find the real killer in this weird and wonderful world of improvised comedy.
I obviously couldn’t turn down the chance to speak to the very talented Tom Davis again to find out more about making the second series, what this year’s celebrities were like and why it’s the best job he’s ever had. Here’s what he had to say...
Murder In Successville is back for a second series! You must have been pleased with the reaction to the first?
Oh yeah. The reaction to the first series really blew us over. People like yourself, and others who really got on board with it, were so lovely about it.
I think it's just something different. We wanted to make something that was unique and it did sort of throw people a bit who were going "What is this?!" but thankfully people then came to it.
What was nice, was that people had their favourites. Some loved the Jamie Laing episode, or the one with Dermot, or Deborah Meaden's. There wasn't one episode where everyone went "that's the one".
You speak to some people on the street and they'll hate Deborah's but they'll love Greg's (James). Or other people loved Jamie's but hated Kimberley's (Wyatt).
I guess a lot of people might have only just found it on iPlayer...
Yeah. What we do, and how we watch things has changed so much in the time I've done this job. My career is what, seven years old? And in that time it has completely changed.
DVDs have just gone now. I don't think we're even on DVD because it's there on iPlayer for everyone to watch.
You've also got some brilliant celebrities this year...
We were really ambitious, and we always have been with the guests. From Dermot to Deborah, we really wanted a certain calibre of people to do it. Because otherwise you can fall down a little bit, so we've been very fortunate.
Singers are really hard to get because you need them for two days. We had a few really good top end singers and band members who wanted to do it, but just because of the nature of two fourteen hour days they can't.
Say if someone like Craig David wanted to do it he couldn't give up two full days because it's in the middle of his promo tour. Maybe that's something we have to think about if we go again, how
do we move things to work around people's schedules.
We're always thinking of the next time we do it, if we do it. How can we grow that world?
Still no Danny Dyer though...
We were so close to getting Danny Dyer, so close. He was right to the last minute as well. That's the thing you know, life kicks in and sometimes we've got someone who's going to do it, they're pumped up for it and then something else happens. We were fortunate with the people that we got this year I think.
Do you have much say in which celebrities take part?
Yeah, I really wanted four of the five. (Laughs) This series, I think they're all so different again.
Kammy's episode was tailored to Kammy. I love Chris Kamara, he's such a lovely bloke and I'd never met him before but the beauty of it and the weird thing about doing the show is that it completely challenges me as an actor constantly, because you never know what's coming at you.
You're always thinking "Shit. What are they going to do?!" It means that you're constantly flying by the seat of your pants, and honestly, I don't think I'll ever be involved in anything that's as mental and challenging as this.
You are in character, and you can't mention anything the celeb has ever done in their real life. They're a completely different entity now. You can't ever mention about 90% of their life. What they've done.
All you know about them is that it's their first day. There are a few little references, like "Let's get mortal" in Vicky's episode.
Let's talk about Vicky then. I mean, how brilliant was she?
Oh man, she genuinely blew me away! And I've been fortunate enough to have worked in the last few years with some amazing comedy actors and actresses but Vicky Pattison is up there with someone who is so quick.
She's so lightning fast! One of my favourite bits in the series is "Sleet's quite a groomer" and she says "Not like your barber then is he son?" (Laughs) And that's Vicky. We can't take any credit for that. Everything that she says is her.
She is a joy to be around and honestly, I was very fortunate to do a film with Brie Larson last year, and Vicky in another life would have been an amazing actress. Maybe she still will! I literally wouldn't put anything past her. She's a remarkable young lady, and a credit to this industry I think.
Without giving too much away about Emma Bunton's episode, it's a slight shift in tone isn't it?
Yeah, it was very emotional filming that episode. Emma Bunton's episode was written for Emma Bunton. It was always going to be Emma, we'd have moved heaven and earth to make that episode hers because it had to be. It was the last thing we filmed.
Any favourite sidekicks?
I loved all of them, seriously. All of them, even the ones from the first series, have all become friends. Vicky was the first one we filmed and I've already gone into why I can't speak highly enough about her.
With Mark Wright, you almost want to put an arm around him. He doesn't get enough credit about how good he actually is. On screen in Murder In Successville he looks like a movie star.
There's this one scene in Mark's episode, this is a bit of a spoiler, but we hired an actual wrestler to beat Mark Wright in an arm wrestle. This guy was in the WWE as a trainee, he's an actual strongman. He's rock hard. So we all thought this was going to be funny.
Then it comes down to the pair of them having this arm wrestle, and Mark beats him! James De Frond is going "You let him win!" and he's like "I didn't!" - so the moment where you see me cheer with Mark is absolutely real because this guy has been paid to come and beat Mark Wright, and now his reputation is in tatters. He's a lovely lovely man. It's a side I don't think you've ever really seen of Mark. He's a consummate professional. He's got a really cheeky sense of humour as well.
The stuff that made him really corpse was really silly stuff, but out of all the sidekicks, he really got put through it. Kammy was just incredible, in a different way. He's just very loveable. You find yourself looking at him and trying not to laugh.
Who was the most competitive?
They all get competitive towards the end. Kammy was probably the least competitive, I think he was just having a bit of a jolly.
Vicky, Mark and Emma. None of them wanted to lose. They all wanted to get it right. Also, it's that weird thing where they know certain people who have done it the year before so they want to beat them.
That moment where they find out if they got it right or wrong, we can never repeat. That is just them finding out for the first time. Their reactions are genuine, we could never shoot that again.
With George (Shelley), I still think to this day if you asked him he'd go "I think I did the show. I'm not quite sure" (Laughs) He's a sweet kid but it was a really difficult relationship on the basis that he's so much younger, but he's brilliant.
I genuinely think he's got about two or three of the best scenes of the series. The scene with Jeremy Kyle is brilliant.
Let's pause for a moment to talk about Jeremy Kyle. Luke Kempner who plays him, is just brilliant isn't he?
Yeah. Luke Kempner this series has become someone really special. In the way Leigh (Francis) did to me, you've sometimes got to put your arm around someone and hopefully give them the kick they need. And man, when he does Daniel Radcliffe it's part of an amazing scene. There's stuff that's brilliant that we just didn't have time to put in.
Are you sometimes itching for each episode to be longer?
Yeah, I mean there was talk about doing a 45-minute or an hour show. We shoot so much because you never know what's going to work and what's not. You end up having a lot of great stuff on camera.
Do we get to find out more about D.I. Sleet this series?
Yes, we meet his ex-wife, Lorraine Kelly. Then we get to meet his son and we also get to meet the proper love of his life who Kerry Godliman plays.
There are more sides to Sleet and we conscious that we had to throw people this time around. The tough cop was almost the first series, this series we've tried to humanise him a little.
That sometimes is more awkward and harder to deal with than if I'm just being horrible. They know how to deal with that, they can be savvy enough, where as if you show a bit of humanity, or break down and cry, then they don't.
You film over two days, so do you tend to find that by the second day they've warmed up and a lot of the great lines come from that second day?
For the second day they've always had a night to think about it. I always notice that the guys come in a lot more testy. They've maybe had a word with their wives (Laughs) When we were shooting with Mark Wright, Michelle Keegan was on FaceTime watching the scenes!
That first interview with them is essentially making them feel a part of it. Sometimes it lasts about 25 minutes, with George (Shelley) it was about 40 minutes. With Deborah, she came into it so full of fire that straight away you knew she'd be great. None of them really did that this year.
You don't want them to feel uncomfortable, that's the last thing I'll ever want to do. I always think, come along and hopefully they'll then tell people that they enjoyed it and loved it.
The main thing is to facilitate that to make sure they're happy and that they're enjoying it.
Out of the five that we did, three of them we were having crisis meetings after the first day in the pub. Well not crisis meetings, but the weird thing is that as the first series did so well, you are a little bit worried. People that I love and admire have really liked it, so that in itself brings pressure. In the back of your mind you are going "is that as good?".
I think what we've done has maintained that level. We as a group, an amazing production team, an amazing director work brilliantly together, but we can only facilitate so much before we have to go "If Chris Kamara doesn't want to do that, he's not going to do it". I mean Chris did EVERYTHING... and more! (Laughs)
I was going to ask, we saw a clip of Chris and yourself in drag. Did he take much convincing?
No. He loved it! I showed that scene to my mum and dad and my wife, and my wife watched it through her hands! It genuinely gets so awkward (Laughs).
What I loved about the first series was the number of up and coming comedians in it, this year there are some very well established names; Paul Whitehouse, Paul Kaye. How did that all come about?
I think Paul Kaye did it for his kids and I know Paul (Whitehouse). He did my first ever short that I did so he came along and was up for it.
Paul Whitehouse is a massive hero of mine, we'd met through mutual friends and talked about doing something together again. We were both on building sites until our early thirties. For me, that was a real pinch me moment.
Everything you saw between me and Paul is all improvised, there is a moment where if you watch it carefully you can see my face smiling, and that's genuine.
That was a lovely moment of me thinking "Wow. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, at least I did that scene with Paul Whitehouse".
Also Doc Brown, he loved the series and got in touch saying that he'd love to do it. I was just bowled over. He does an amazing Beyoncé! We wanted that so much but we couldn't get it to work date wise.
So series three, the only thing I would definitely want to do is Doc Brown as Beyoncé because it's incredible. Like genuinely. He did it in the room and we were all like "What the... This is fucking amazing!", and not played at all for comedy. Hilarious, but played for drama.
It's up there with some of the best things I've ever seen. I'd watch an hour-long show of Doc Brown doing Beyoncé. He's one of my favourite performers and one of the nicest men in this game.
I love those moments, you can tell that you're all really enjoying making the show.
Genuinely, I can't speak highly enough about Tiger Aspect as a company. Nearly all of them were at my wedding, they're like family now. That's what we've created.
For the Murder In Successville team you stand there and you look around and I'm essentially the only constant cast member. For example when I do The Keith Lemon Sketch Show there are about four or five of us. With this my fellow cast members are the PR guys, the camera guys and the crew.
That's what's lovely about it. It is a nice coming together and it's a joyous thing to make. It really is a show where everyone brings their A game. We're not trying to make something that's going to change the world. We're just making something for everyone to sit back and enjoy for half an hour.
What's next for you?
We're going to see how this does. I've got a couple of things knocking around, we're in talks for a film, not Murder In Successville, but another thing.
I'm doing Harry Hill's new show which should be fun, because it's just all out silliness. Hopefully I'll be doing something with Leigh (Francis) soon. No news on The Keith Lemon Sketch Show, I think he's said it might not happen again. We're not sure. Same with Plebs, we're not sure if that's going to go again. It's just a lot of waiting... and picking up what you can!
It's certainly been a very busy last year or so for you...
It has, and you've been lovely throughout all of that and long may it continue because you do a brilliant job at what you do.
I'm very fortunate that I've never had any training, I came from a background where this seemed like the most remote thing that I could ever do, making my own show which is as mad as it is.
I honestly count my blessings every day. I love this industry, I love working with good people, it's a dream. It's a lot of fun.