Three years ago, I wrote about spending a wonderful night on Broadway watching “The Play That Goes Wrong,” a comedy about a small town British theater company (The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society) putting on a farcical murder mystery in the tradition of “Noises Off” and “What The Butler Saw” — but everything that can go wrong does.
When that run was over, the three authors (Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields) went back to England to start working on a TV project with the same basic theme. The result is “The Goes Wrong Show,” in which each episode presents a live televised production by that theater troupe — full of slapstick, missing props, overzealous acting, and scenery that refuses to cooperate with the actors. But it’s not all physical. The scripts are full of the kind of clever dialogue that made “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun” quotable classics.
They made six episodes of “The Goes Wrong Show,” which aired on the BBC last winter, and have now made their way to Amazon Prime Video. Each takes on a different genre. One week it’s a haunted house mystery, the next a World War II coding story (a la “The Imitation Game”), the next a legal case (in a courtroom that was designed in inches, but built in centimeters, forcing everyone to squeeze into very tight spaces), and so on.
Comedy like this requires that no one in the play knows they’re doing comedy, both onstage and behind the scenes. They have to play it straight or the jokes don’t work — and this cast, which includes many of the same people who appeared in “The Play That Goes Wrong,” pulls it off with expert timing. The execution of each mini-play is nothing short of hysterical, in every meaning of that word.
I can’t recommend “The Goes Wrong Show” highly enough. One caveat: you may not want to watch more than one episode at a time, to allow the tempo, performances, and concepts to sink in — and give your face a break from laughing out loud.
I give it a 9.5 out of 10.