Hitmen review: Mel and Sue swap baking for butchering in this soggy-bottomed assassin comedy
The ‘Bake Off’ duo reunite as a pair of killing machines in this new Sky series, where the biggest crimes committed are the boring jokes
“Mel and Sue become killers for hire.” When I first read this headline about the former hosts of The Great British Bake Off, I was a little, erm, perplexed. Having now realised that it referred to their new comedy, Hitmen, and having now seen the show in question, I am only marginally less perplexed.
Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins play hapless assassins Jamie and Fran. They drive a huge yellow van, enjoy wine and karaoke, and don’t have any pals apart from each other. It’s an occupational hazard, apparently.
The series opens with one of their victims hanging from a balcony, clinging on for dear life. Mel and Sue address him as if he is just another bumbling baker who’s messed up the glaze on his frangipane – Mel all wide-eyed, whispering silliness and Sue being sort of awkward and frank. At one point, they agree to pull him to safety and give him a 10-second head start to run away. You’re almost disappointed when you don’t hear the words: “On your marks, get set, escape!”
And this is precisely the problem. Mel and Sue just don’t seem to be acting. Their voices, facial expressions and mannerisms all mirror what they do in their presenting work and comedy skits, meaning there’s no chance of being immersed in their imaginary world at all. Even their dynamic is the same: Mel as the playful hype man to Sue’s more serious voice of reason.
Also, unfortunately, it’s just not funny. The first episode sees the slayers waiting around for instructions on what to do with the bloke locked in the back of their van. They get up to all sorts of inane antics in the intervening hours: a trip to a McDonald’s drive-thru, charades (never mind all the killing, the pair’s most heinous crime is wasting this perfect opportunity for good physical comedy), donning party hats (because it’s Sue’s birthday! So silly!), and meeting a rival assassin who also happens to be Sue’s crush.
Maybe there’ll be some emotional depth, I hear you cry, in the absence of much to laugh about? Alas, the closest we get to this is a conversation with the aforementioned hostage who, thinking he’s about to die, tells the killers: “Everyone ends up doing stuff they’re not proud of. In the end, the most important thing is that the people who know you accept you for who you are.” But it just hangs in the air and amounts to nothing, like a drooping tower of choux pastries.
All that said, Hitmen serves its purpose if you’re looking for escapism from the relentlessness of reality. Telly presenters running around killing people, not even bothering with hand sanitiser or social distancing? It’s proper fantasy TV.