Hapless Series Review: Hilarious British Comedy Meant to Test Boundaries

As comedy has shifted the bounds of acceptable content, some shows continue to push the line between problematic and funny. Unlike some comedians insist, good comedy series like It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia push the boundary of what is allowed on television. Hapless, a new series streaming on Peacock, looks to bring the same energy from a crew of British comedians. It approaches its comedy with traditional sitcom approaches, but unlike many shows, it lets the humor spiral out of control. Most importantly, it gives its stars the material to milk the most laughs possible out of the punchlines. The show is very funny, even if it occasionally feels too similar to the Curb Your Enthusiasm or The League.

hapless series review: hilarious british comedy meant to test boundaries

Hapless 2024

Hapless Plot

Hapless follows Paul Green (Tim Downie), a British journalist completing stories for The Jewish Enquirer. As Paul investigates various stories, he comes into contact with different aspects of Jewish and secular British culture. During his various adventures, he enlists the help of his friend Simon (Josh Howie) and his sister Naomi (Jeany Spark). Their misadventures sometimes verge on the ridiculous, including trips to Orthodox Wedding dress rental companies, interviews with TV stars trying to break out of sketch comedy, and getting fake tattoos to improve their self-esteem.

hapless series review: hilarious british comedy meant to test boundaries

Hapless 2024

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Hapless Critique

It’s easy to call a show edgy or provocative. However, many of these shows pull punches or avoid difficult questions. This cannot be leveled against Hapless, which openly puts Downie into awkward positions whenever possible. Yes, he has a particular point of view on how the world should work, and this generates the majority of the comedy. However, the show does not move all of its comedy through him, incorporating his castmates into the antics whenever possible. Hapless pushes buttons on religious, gender, and political lines, but because it’s so willing to joke about anything.

The self-deprecating aspect of the humor would work if it was only directed at Downie. However, Hapless does not let its crew off the hook. Spark gets many of the show’s funniest sequences, putting herself in unenviable positions, but showcases the ability to create laughter from profanity. It’s surprising how quickly she emerges as the comedic king of the show, which allows Downie to settle into a role that is both straight-man and the instigator.

Gary Sinyor (The Bachelor, Bob the Butler) takes the comedic reigns on the series as well. As both the writer and director of every episode, you can feel his influence over the series. He shoots it well enough, perhaps most importantly, nails the comedic timing. With culturally specific humor in bundles, as well as excellent universal jokes, Hapless rarely goes more than a few minutes without a laugh.

Hapless suffers from being too similar in structure to some American shows. It’s hard to ignore the narrative similarities to your Curbs, or It’s Alway Sunnys simply because they’ve established a foothold in the American psyche. At times, Hapless openly acknowledges its comedic peers. Early on, Fleabag and Catastrophe get shoutouts for their more controversial episode themes. Hapless lands most of its humor, but when it’s actively putting itself in conversation with shows that combine emotional distress with comedic lampooning, it becomes clear it does not reach their level. Hapless remains rooted in comedy throughout, and while that works for the series, it does put a slight cap on the heights the series can achieve.

One aspect that frustrates throughout the season comes from how each episode ends. While there’s some purpose to having Paul peruse the site he writes for, it feels unnecessary during most of the sequences. While it provides a review of the episode, the show does not have runtimes that require a full breakdown of what we just watched.

It’s not only a little odd because it does not trust the audience to remember what we watched, but it feels too formulaic. Hapless’s best moments occur when Paul engages with his fellow characters. Losing even a minute of that dialogue to recap the episode and have Downie react by himself feels like a wasted opportunity.

hapless series review: hilarious british comedy meant to test boundaries

Hapless 2024

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Conclusion

Hapless is not the kind of show that will create controversy for controversy’s sake. However, it does not shy away form topics that are often taboo. Putting its cast in the position to succeed with excellent writing helps the series avoid its greatest potential pitfalls. As often as possible, the jokes stem from the idiocy of its characters, and they often get their comeuppance as a result. It’s a fun show, and an easy to enjoy comedic experience.

7/10

hapless series review: hilarious british comedy meant to test boundaries

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