'Vicious: The Finale'
(Ian McKellan, Derek Jacobi, Frances de la Tour, Iwan Rheon, Marcia Warren, Philip Voss, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / PBS)
Overview: 'Vicious' returns for the finale charting a year in the life: Freddie (Ian McKellen) and Stuart (Derek Jacobi) enjoy their inheritance and a birthday; Violet (Frances de la Tour) moves on from her divorce and Ash (Iwan Rheon) arrives with news.
DVD Verdict: Telling it like it is, this (relatively) brand new British comedy is as funny as they come - truly! Set out in the same vein as a Broadway theatre production - sofa facing the audience, one set / room backdrop, quick one-liners so to as not bog the scenes down - 'Vicious' is sharp, witty, sarcastic, and above all other things both fresh and hilariously funny!
'Vicious' is the story of an old gay couple - Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi - who have been living together, in a relationship for 50 years! Throughout the first, quite brilliant season, Jacobi (Stuart) hadn't told his mother he is gay, but always spoke to her on the phone at the start of each episode (save for episode 6).
McKellan as Freddie is the long in the tooth actor who gets odd working parts here and there re: Downton Abbey, but it seems his continual claim to fame is that he was voted the 10th best baddie in an episode of Dr. Who once! Indeed, their relationship is held together these days by bantering back and forth with witty, sometimes vicious sarcasm towards one another. Hey, well, isn't that what old 'Queens' are known for?!
The duo got rounded out into a quartet with the inclusion of the always-sexual, and lifelong friend Frances de la Tour, and young neighbor Ash, Iwan Rheon. The fun squabbling continued throughout the second series, albeit on a much more loving level, and with the foursome now becoming a sextet, with the inclusion of friends; the memory-failing Penelope (Marcia Warren), and Philip Voss as Mason Thornhill, Freddie's often sharp-tongued brother. We also got to see our favorite gay couple more out and about than ever before, which was nice.
This time, for the finale, we instantly get a two season quick recap, before the opening title sequence, for once, doesn't feature the still-always-great-to-hear Communards track 'Never Can Say Goodbye.' A little sad there, to be honest, for it had started all the other episodes, but not this feature-length finale.
The end of series 2 saw Freddie and Stuart marry after more than 50 years together. While the elderly gay couple were in a perpetual love/hate relationship, one immediately got the sense that the scales tipped way more towards the love portion than the hate portion of the equation.
Given the unexplained and unexpected decision to not commission a third series of 'Home Fires', it’s nice to see 'Vicious' fans will get a bit of closure to Freddie and Stuart’s relationship. Thankfully, Balthazar made it through the wedding. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Stuart’s mum!
Anyway, dutiful rant over, pretty soon the OTT camp fest quickly fires into action as our collective trio x two trade barbs like they are auditioning for a West End old farts play!
That all said, I have to bring up a quote made in the very first season of 'Vicious' that still lives with me today as one of the funniest lines in the entire series. Although the subject matter is not of good tone, I understand that, but as this is a comedy, here it is: Violet and Freddie are sitting in the front room, having slight pop shots at one another, when Freddie just goes for the jugular re: Violet's constant sexual overtones: "For God's sake, Violet. Nobody wants to rape you," says Freddie. "What a horrible thing to say," she responds! Bloody classic!
Sure, 'Vicious' isn't what one would expect to see on television these past few years. It's definitely hammy and over the top, but I think that's what I liked about it most. It's ridiculous and I think the ridiculousness is what made it so brilliant. Plus both Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi are seasoned TV, film and stage actors, so there isn't a foot to be put wrong here between them. So, as much as it's a shame that they cannot make a third season, at least we got a wonderful send off for our favorite gay couple, Freddie and Stuart. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.