Barry Cryer – ITV comedy Vicious is “homophobic”

The veteran comedian and Radio 4 panellist lambasts Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen's comedy series

Veteran comedian Barry Cryer has hit out at ITV’s gay comedy Vicious, labelling it “homophobic”.

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Cryer said the comedy, which stars Sir Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as long-term lovers Freddie and Stuart, squandered the enormous potential of the subject matter and the cast.

“A sitcom with two old gays could be really good and moving,” Cryer writes in today’s Radio Times magazine. “With two great actors in Sir Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi it should be fantastic. But it was insult, insult, insult every other line. You don’t believe in them. You don’t like them, for a start. It was positively homophobic! It made John Inman look restrained.”

Vicious ended its run last week and ITV is not expected to commission a second series, according to sources, although a Christmas special is understood to have been filmed and will air. A spokesperson said that no decision has been made over a recommission and declined to respond to Cryer’s comments.

An ITV source said that it was a “shame” that he thought this way and pointed out that the Gay Times was a “big supporter of the show”.

It appears, however, that some viewers would agree with Cryer, who has enjoyed a showbusiness career lasting sixty years and is currently best known for his work as a panelist on the hit Radio 4 comedy I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue.

According to the unofficial overnights, ratings for the show fell from 5.78m for the opening instalment to 3.82m for the second. The sixth and final episode inotched up only 2.77m, although this does not include consolidated and catch-up figures.

Cryer added that the failures of Vicious reflect a trend for “back to basic sitcoms” which he believes do not work.

“It’s a serious business writing comedy. You don’t necessarily need funny lines all the time. The key is to create characters. Characters people can identify with. But right now we’ve gone back at least 30 years in terms of format.

“The great sitcom writers of the past didn’t think jokes were remotely important. Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who wrote Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son, knew that instinctively. Johnny Speight who created Alf Garnett never did jokes; he just wrote great characters. And for immaculate writing it would be hard to beat Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s Porridge. That show had a great gallery of characters and not a duff moment in any episode. That’s it. Great characters trapped in a situation.”

Cryer adds that while he is “overfond” of Miranda he believes that “ the falling down has got a bit out of hand” on her eponymous BBC2 show.

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Read the full interview with Barry Cryer in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale now