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Hard Cell Ep 1 Review: Catherine Tate’s prison comedy is light on laughs and doesn’t live up to its potential

Web Series description: 

Hard Cell 

Hard Cell Cast: Catherine Tate, Cheryl Fergison

Hard Cell Director: Catherine Tate

Hard Cell Platform: Netflix

Two things struck me around halfway through the first episode of Catherine Tate’s new prison comedy Hard Cell: first, the sheer quantity of excrement jokes squeezed into the first 10 minutes. Not looking good. Second is that this has the makings of a good show but it’s been just locked up behind many bars, much like the film’s characters; as a consequence, the film meanders at the outset and never quite reaches its stride. There’s a joke about a lady having diarrhea in her cell toilet as her cellmate performs a piece for the camera; there’s an entire scene about the plumbing going wild, and there’s a long-running joke about one character attempting to get another to say “number two” on camera. When everything is added up, it’s just too much.

 

The mockumentary centers on HMP Woldsley, a fictitious female prison, and follows the lives of its Governor Laura (played by Tate), guards (one of whom is also portrayed by Tate), and convicts (yep, you guessed it, multiple of which are played by Tate). Laura, who has a history in events, feels that creativity leads to recovery and engages ex-Eastenders actress Cheryl Fergison (who plays herself here) to direct the convicts in a musical. I should mention that the first episode does improve as it progresses – characters are filled out, the story moves forward, and the humor takes a welcome back seat to the drama. However, by the end of the episode, it gets difficult to watch, with every joke highly signaled and then mined to oblivion for all its value. This sometimes devolves into cringe humour, sans the funny. A prominent joke in the first two episodes has Fergison being frequently referred to by her EastEnders character name Heather – a gag that worked very well for Shaun Williamson (or Barry) in Ricky Gervais’ 2005 sitcom Extras. The issues are that one, all of the characters here think it humorous, intentionally decreasing its effect, and two, it was in 2005. Everything in this show seems dated, from the actors singing Just One Cornetto to the mockumentary “can you believe this?” staring at the camera.

 

Interestingly, all of the characters, particularly those performed by Tate, have a unique flavor and a great deal of promise to be developed into something fascinating and amusing. However, the writers failed to expand on it and reduced it to caricatures. They focus on the clichés, whether it’s the accent or the deeper interior features, and never go into the depths. Everything would have made sense if the story had been humorous, but the language fails to elicit the required reaction. Somewhere along the way, the ineffectiveness makes you wonder if it was just done to give Catharine Tate a chance to show off her versatility.

 

There’s no denying that “Hard Cell” has the purpose and capacity to produce something genuine, but it falls short by becoming deluded along the way. Catherine Tate attempts to demonstrate her variety as an actress, but without the necessary subtleties, it is never enough to hook you up. The first episode of Hard Cell, which is now streaming on Netflix, provides a few moments of scathing comedy with a loose plot and a lack of dramatic tension, but it never quite quenches your thirst. The rest of the episode might focus on bits and work, avoids the forced potty humour, and up the gag rate so that every joke isn’t so dragged out but the first episode will not urge you to move forward. Regardless, Tate fans are certain to fall in love with this universe and these people, and here’s hoping they do. I’m certain that this series will find its audience. It simply can’t consider me among them for the time being.

 

 
 

 

 

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