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After the enjoyable period caper of Channel 4’s The Curse, in which most of the team behind the magnificent pirate-radio mock-doc People Just Do Nothing reassembled for a bank-heist comedy, Peacock (BBC Three) represents a return to familiar turf for co-creators and co-stars Allan Mustafa and Steve Stamp. The set-up is broader but the similarities are as inevitable as they are undeniable: Mustafa’s Andy Peacock is, like PJDN’s MC Grindah, a self-proclaimed big fish wholly unaware of the size of his pond - in this case the Sportif Leisure gym where he has worked as a personal trainer for 15 years - and struggling to keep himself fit and retain clients.
Standing in the way of Andy’s ill-defined dreams of personal and professional success: his smooth, ripped rival PT Jay (Lucien Laviscount), his inept, craven boss (Susan Wokoma) and, above all, himself. Andy is, like Grindah, another detailed deconstruction of masculinity and ego, a deluded man-child so concerned with the opinions of others that he has no idea who he really is. While all his friends (of which he has a surprising number) are settling down and having kids; Andy is, he insists, keeping his options open on all fronts.
A subsequent bad trip on magic mushrooms triggers “not a breakdown, more of a breakthrough”, as Andy decides to take control of his destiny. It will come as no surprise to learn that his application for a promotion and attempt to go steady with one of his clients (Callie Cooke) go awry; even when salvation beckons in Georgia (Mandeep Dhillon), a businesswoman almost uncannily on his wavelength, bravado threatens to sabotage his shot at genuine happiness.
Some of the details are wonderful. Andy’s attempts to demonstrate he doesn’t really live with his parents are surreal and just plausible enough, his bedroom a telling blend of childish obsessions and failed grasps at sophistication, and the atmosphere in the gym a recognisable blend of right-on accessibility and clenched testosterone.
Yet it never quite convinces on the same level as PJDN. Andy is perhaps too pathetic to really empathise with, and the fine supporting cast feel a little short-changed by thin characterisation: Jay is a smug irritant; best pal Spooner (Thomas Gray) is amiable but lightweight in comparison to the mercurial buffoonery of PJDN’s Chabuddy G; and Spooner’s partner (Sophia Di Martino) assumes the time-honoured role of The Sensible Woman in a universe of egotistical, self-aggrandising blokes.
With Andy deciding to go it alone and some sort of self-awareness dawning (albeit very, very slowly), the intention is clearly for a second season. Dhillon and Mustafa’s touching chemistry makes this prospect less of a chore than it initially might have seemed, but the sense lingers that Mustafa has greater range in him than Peacock allows: having ticked off the wet blanket finding his mojo in The Curse, that desperate anger and coiled aggression could be channelled into a genuinely terrifying straight villain. For now, Peacock struts its stuff attractively enough.