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‘Ill Behaviour’ Debuts on Showtime
November 13, 2017  | By David Hinckley
 

Showtime’s new Brit import Ill Behaviour plays like a screwball comedy written by a room full of depressed people who have gone off their meds.

If that sounds promising, have at it. The first of Ill Behaviour’s six episodes premieres Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET.

On the more optimistic side, Showtime itself has often been able to take outrageous, seemingly hopeless premises and convert them into entertaining drama and laughs. Weeds, Dexter, Shameless.

Ill Behaviour could get there. It’s got a lot of road to cover.

The premise seems, to put it politely, tortured.

Joel (Chris Geere, top) has been dumped and divorced by his wife of 10 years. She also gave him two million pounds in go-away money. The opening scene of the show has Joel sitting on the outside rail of a high balcony, throwing money into the street.

Psychological subtlety is not the route Ill Behaviour has chosen to take.

Joel is saved, albeit clumsily, by his two best friends, Charlie (Tom Riley, left) and Tess (Jessica Regan, left). They aren’t married. They’re all just friends. Charlie is married to Kira (Christina Chong) and has a family. Tess is single, an aspiring novelist.

Charlie makes it his mission to talk Joel back into the world of the living, which begins by setting him up for a date with Nadia (Lizzy Caplan, below).

Nadia is an oncologist. She smokes and drinks, heavily, and enjoys the occasional non-prescription drug. She seems to enjoy casual sex, and she sees no need for tact about anything.

She and Joel are a classic one-and-done until Joel learns that Charlie has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is rejecting chemotherapy in favor of holistic treatments like juice fasts and acupuncture.

Now suddenly Joel’s the one with a mission: getting Charlie to save the carrot juice for snacks and go with the chemo.

When Charlie refuses, Joel and a reluctant Tess take extreme measures to give him the treatments. Suddenly it’s very handy that Nadia is an oncologist and even handier that Joel can toss her enough money to overcome her indifference and make her part of the team.

Explaining exactly what they do would spoil the show. Suffice it to say it’s extreme. It’s also designed to be zany, though the seriousness of Charlie’s condition and the steps taken by his friends often make the laughs hard to summon.  

At the same time, while we like the characters enough to wish them the best, none of them really becomes a fan favorite. The acting is fine. They’re just in a situation where they most often seem exasperating.

If these same five actors or characters had a plotline that didn’t require such heavy lifting, we’d very likely find them engaging.

All suggestions welcome.

 
 
 
 
 
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