Everyone Else Burns review: Cult comedy needs a few more blessings
Channel 4's latest isn't funnier-than-thou – but it does have some bright spots.
The premise of Everyone Else Burns is sure to raise some eyebrows. The latest Channel 4 sitcom starring Simon Bird follows a family in the grip of a puritanical cult, who believe that the apocalypse is coming and it is their sacred duty to save as many souls as they can from eternal damnation. Huh, OK.
But underneath this eccentric idea, there lurks a relatively by-the-numbers story that touches on the familiar topics of marriage, parenting and coming of age. In keeping with the religious theme, that's both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, it serves a narrative purpose. The situation in this situational comedy is so far from what most people will be familiar with (I hope) that there is logic in providing a way in for viewers through more relatable subject matter.
However, the result is a surprising lack of identity for the series, which never finds a distinct comedic voice nor a sense of style beyond its dowdy costumes and one hell of a bowl cut. That's not a fatal flaw as the series is still a watchable little package, but there is a feeling it could have been something greater had it taken some bigger risks.
Bird remains a charismatic lead as patriarch David Lewis, who has been killing time working at a postal depot as he awaits his all-but-guaranteed promotion to church elder. He runs a tight ship, keeping a close eye on the daily activities of his wife and two children as well as subjecting them to routine apocalypse rehearsals in the middle of the night.
Nevertheless, there are cracks starting to show in this model cult family, as wife Fiona (Kate O'Flynn) yearns for something more, daughter Rachel (Amy James-Kelly) feels flickers of romance and son Aaron (Harry Connor) grows worryingly extreme in his beliefs.
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Of these storylines, Rachel's is by far the most compelling, with James-Kelly finding a strong screen partner in Ali Khan, playing a local boy who tempts her away from the strict doctrine she was raised in. It's a charming story of young love that gives this show its most effective emotional beats, which is advantageous in a show generally better at delivering schmaltz than belly laughs.
Overall, it's disappointing the jokes don't hit harder given the pedigree of talent, with British comedy stars Lolly Adefope (Ghosts), Liam Williams (Ladhood), Kadiff Kirwan (This Is Going to Hurt) and Morgana Robinson (Taskmaster) also attached in supporting roles.
Everyone Else Burns also suffers from a somewhat anticlimactic series finale, with a palpable sense of escalation ultimately not amounting to very much at all. A few unresolved plot threads and a lack of comeuppance for deserving characters suggest that the writers are holding out for a second season, but it's hard not to wish for some resolution when such a thing is no guarantee.
It makes for a sitcom that is enjoyable enough in the moment but all too easy to shrug off, which is not what you'd expect from a premise with potential to be so provocative.
Everyone Else Burns premieres on Channel 4 at 10pm on Monday 23rd January 2023. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.
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