While Staged season one was based on the premise that Tennant and Sheen (playing exaggerated versions of themselves) were rehearsing a play via Zoom, season two upends that premise from the start.
The first, 15-minute episode kicks off during a televised Zoom call with Romesh Ranganathan, who’s hosting “6 Months into Lockdown” (for those confused about when Staged season two is set, the clue is in the name).
In the call, he praises the actors for their latest TV show: Staged. “It did feel real,” he tells them, to which they demur and stress that the versions of themselves in Staged were entirely fictional (“Nothing like us at all!”).
Both Tennant and Sheen are keen to return to ‘real’ work and leave Staged behind, but as travel restrictions kick in and their respective flights are cancelled later in the episode, they’re presented with a new idea: a remake of Staged for American audiences.
However, despite the episode’s meta twist, it’s clear that the show’s key elements (like the sweary, occasionally whimsical banter between Tennant and Sheen) haven’t changed. Nor has the show’s ability to attract big name cameos.
A delightfully rude Sir Michael Palin appears as a third guest on Ranganathan’s show (and, of course, gets all the best lines). Throughout the call, the Monty Python star makes more and more quips about Staged (“Loved it… For what it was”), until a final, deliciously savage takedown during an ‘off-air’ moment.
“It was like a 30-minute Celtic reach-around,” he says, before the final blow: “You’re not funny.”
And just when you thought the episode had filled its quota of celebrity names, up pops Whoopi Goldberg mid-way through a Zoom call with Sheen. Apparently playing an American television producer, she drops a bombshell: Staged The Remake is going ahead, but Tennant and Sheen are getting replaced by Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (fingers crossed they both appear later in the season).
However, it seems that both Sheen and Tennant will still be involved in the remake as executive producers – alongside Simon Evans. Judging from Sheen’s reaction to this news, Simon is still a source of consternation, whether or not he’s an ineffectual theatre director (as in season one), or (as in real-life, and now on-screen in season two) the screenwriter behind Staged itself.
Still licking their wounds following Michael Palin’s zingers, Tennant and Sheen agree to help out on the US-remake of Staged, in the hopes of making it big across the pond.
They joke about appearing in Western films, before launching into an inadvertently homoerotic analogy, as Tennant decides to name his fictional cowboy steed ‘Sheen’. “I’m going to ride you all the way to America!” he roars. (Could it be a sly reference to the fan fiction that emerged following Good Omens?)
You’d be forgiven for getting lost in the quagmire of self-referential jokes and layers, but one thing is for sure: just as the fictional American telly execs are hoping for an exaggerated remake of Staged, it seems that season two is already proving to be Staged on steroids.
With the promise of Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) taking on a significant role later in the season – and undoubtedly more celebrity cameos – Staged’s return is already proving a much-needed treat for viewers.
Staged season two continues on BBC One. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.