A star rating of 5 out of 5.

People Just Do Nothing and Murder in Successville are two of the most acclaimed British comedies of the last decade, so it's no great surprise the combined creative forces behind them would deliver us another gem. And based on the strength of its first three episodes, the new Channel 4 comedy caper The Curse is just that: a terrific piece of television that serves as both an uproarious comedy and a compelling heist show in its own right.

The series tells the story of a group of down on their luck pals – Albert (Allan Mustafa), Sidney (Steve Stamp), Mick (Tom Davis) and Phil (Hugo Chegwin) – who exist on the fringes of the East End criminal underworld in the early 1980s. One morning, Sidney explains over a few pints that he's got a new security job, and suggests this presents an excellent opportunity: if he leaves the door open and turns his back, the gang could pull off a remarkably trouble-free burglary.

The suggestion is initially greeted with a somewhat mixed reception, with Albert especially tentative – but after a bit of persuasion from his wife Tash (Emer Kenny) and with help from a pair of intimidating gangsters recruited by the desperate-to-impress Phil, the group starts planning for the daring heist. Only, a twist of fate means that rather than collecting the rather modest sum they originally set out for, they leave with an astonishing £30 million worth of gold bullion, an amount which marks it out as one of the biggest robberies in British history. Naturally, an investigation soon begins, and the rest of the series deals with the gang as they desperately try to cover their tracks.

The first episode opens with a disclaimer that 'some of this might have happened' and indeed the series is loosely inspired by a spate of real-life heists, with narration from Tash filling us in on some key historical context. "London, the early 80's," she says. "It was rough out there: the worst recession since the war, Thatcher had pulled the working class's pants down but in the same breath filed down our conscience and replaced it with naked greed."

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This context is key to the events that follow, and the time period is expertly brought to life through some top-notch production design, costuming, and facial hair styling, lending the series a specificity and degree of retro charm that never feels like its too overplayed. This setting also allows the writers to make use of some excellent needle drops throughout, with tracks from The Clash and Talking Heads among those to feature in the early episodes.

Of course, a group of bumbling idiots finding themselves out of their depth is a well-worn comedy staple, but it is executed so well here – with a wonderful mix of characters who bounce off each other superbly. Crucially, while Mustafa, Stamp and Chegwin aren't by any means simply playing rehashes of their People Just Do Nothing characters, they've managed to retain both their easy chemistry and their mastery when it comes to line delivery – and the trio remains an absolute blast to watch as a result. Meanwhile, the other cast members slot effortlessly and hilariously into the ensemble: Davis is a riot as witless ex-boxer Gary, while Kenny shines as Tash, the most sensible member of the group by some considerable stretch, who often finds her reasonable ideas ignored by the others.

As the series progresses, it's hard not to get drawn into the drama of it all, as we watch the gang make all manner of embarrassing blunders, and the friends increasingly begin to turn on each other as the pressure ramps up. But however compelling the heist itself is, first and foremost this is just a brilliantly funny comedy, and the laughs keep on coming at a very impressive rate throughout, with an excellent scene set around a snooker table a particular highlight from the opening episode. The strongest recommendation I can give is that I simply can't wait to watch the remaining three instalments – this show is a real treat.

The Curse begins on Channel 4 on Sunday 6th February 2022. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.