Dave’s new sitcom, Zapped!, is hoping to be the new Red Dwarf. It’s launching off the back of it, and, like Red Dwarf, is a comedy set outside of the real world – although Zapped! is playing with the fantasy genre rather than the sci-fi one.
James Buckley (The Inbetweeners) plays Brian, a regular guy who finds himself accidentally transported to a fantasy world. “And then he meets all these strange and weird people and he spends his time mostly trying to come up with ways to get back home.”
But it wasn’t the fantasy elements that attracted Buckley to Zapped! – it was the traditional sitcom elements, and the presence of producer Steve Coogan (he describes Coogan’s cameo in the show as “a masterclass in how you should be funny”). “[I]t felt like a really good opportunity for me to do something a little bit different to what people know me for,” he adds.
His co-star Paul Kaye, however, is back in outlandish wizard robes again for his role as Howell. He, like most of the cast when we met them on set, tells us that he was drawn in by the unique feel of the writing. “[W]e’re talking about these wildly fantastical things, but it’s all kind of routine and what we’re used to. So it’s a really lovely mix of weird and stupid with the everyday problems that they face, you know? When I read it I’d never read anything quite like it.”
My Mad Fat Diary star Sharon Rooney was also drawn in by the script. “I laughed out loud when I read it, and I’m not a laugher… I think it’s something you can put on and have fun, and watch with the family.” It’s a pre-watershed show, and Kaye is proud of the fact that there’s “not an arse-fucking gag in sight”. “That’s the great thing about pre-watershed stuff, he says, “it’s far more imaginative and fun.”
Buckley is under no illusions about how well he’d cope in Brian’s situation (“I’d probably curl up into a ball and just sit there and wait for sweet death”), but he’s keen to see how Brian’s situation turns out. “[W]hat’s great about this world is that it feels like it’s something that isn’t finite,” he says.
“There are so many different things that you want to explore and so many characters that can come up, different situations that Brian can find himself in. Because there’s a thing with Brian where he’s actually a loser back home. He doesn’t like to think he is, but I assume, hopefully, there’ll be a time where he realises he has more in common with these people who he considers weird, because he’s probably considered weird back home.”
With Zapped! being a three-episode pilot, Brian’s fate very much depends on how the viewers respond to the show. But with fantasy comedies being pretty rare beasts, it’s certainly worth a watch.
Zapped! will air on Dave in October. For all the latest TV news, pick up the latest issue of SciFiNow.