Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are back, and the double act behind the enormously successful comedy show Shooting Stars clearly feel they have something to prove.
House of Fools begins calmly enough, with credits that acknowledge its sitcom forebears of the 70s, but as could only be expected from Vic and Bob, it all quickly descends into madness. The show’s premise is simple and the title really says it all. The two take the roles of foolish best friends, who have recently moved in together at the family home which Bob shares with Eric, his (slightly odd) Norwegian son (Daniel Simonsen).
Their House of Fools is also often frequented by Beef (Matt Berry), a lady’s man with no care for political correctness, Julie (Morgana Robinson), their sexually obsessive neighbour and Bosh (Dan Skinner), a stuttering ex-convict clearly wishing to take a room at the madhouse.
The pilot sees Bob attempt to enjoy a date watching Conan the Barbarian, and Vic struggle to make sure that all can be salvaged once he breaks the television with his favourite gauntlet.
Moments of hilarity do occur on Vic’s journey to ensure the date’s success, largely due to the duo’s undeniable chemistry and quick-witted puns. Yet it’s difficult not to be disappointed with how few and far between these genuinely funny scenes are. The problem with the simplicity of the House of Fools plot line and the scatter-brained nature of Vic and Bob’s comedy is that often the show is allowed to veer off into wildly unfunny territory. Crude flashbacks and a completely unnecessary use of puppetry make it feel as though you’ve stepped into the mind of a puerile teenager and their close-to-the-bone jokes sometimes swerve too far into offensiveness.
House of Fools is, however, somewhat redeemed by it’s sheer uniqueness and by Reeves and Mortimer’s clever use of Morecambe and Wise-esque physical comedy. Like nothing else on television, the show is refreshingly unabashed and there’s something pleasing about a sitcom that doesn’t play by the rules. Unfortunately, House of Fools too often ignores the cardinal sitcom rule: be funny. Positive elements are vastly outweighed by the too often self-indulgent humour and it’s hard not to feel that when Vic and Bob riff off each other they forget the audience exists.