Blightyvision: “Mad Dogs”

Starring John Simm, Max Beesley, Marc Warren, and Philip Glenister
Written by Cris Cole
Directed by Adrian Shergold

Sky One have been pushing this show pretty much since its inception.  Billboards, magazine spreads, and surreal adverts like this basically told us three essential facts about “Mad Dogs”:

1. It’s dark,
2. It’s not going to be like anything we’ve seen in recent years, and
3. MEN.

On the surface, it’s got the appearance of a British TV clique get-together, especially given headliners Simm and Glenister (who I’m pretty sure are secretly married and/or contractually obligated to work together at least once every two years).  But once you’re a little ways into the first episode and have gotten past the general manning about, you start to see exactly what you’re in for.

“Mad Dogs” opens as a wacky vacation getaway with friends Baxter (Simm), Quinn (Glenister), Woody (Beesley), and Rick (Warren) heading off to Majorca to visit their old pal Alvo (Ben Chaplin) now that he’s made good.  They go clubbing and drinking and boating and picking up girls, and they learn that Alvo’s become, well, something of a dick.  As they are coming to terms with the people they’ve all become and the deep psychological implications of their life choices, Alvo gets shot by a Spanish midget in a Tony Blair mask.

Then things get weird.

tl;dr, “Mad Dogs” is a black comedy: dark, disturbing, gruesome, and evoking nervous laughter in all the wrong (right?) places.  All four of our leads give strong performances as character types we’re not necessarily used to seeing them play.  It’s definitely a stretch for all of them, but it’s a stretch you can see them enjoying.  The extended minor cast is fairly small, with the other major standout being María Botto as a cop whose MO nobody, including the audience, can ever seem to get a grip on.

Cris Cole’s writing is very slick and alternates between just-plain-wrong one-liners and emotional monologues for all involved.  At four 45-minute episodes, even the relative downtime is “productive” plot-wise.  The ending is something of a shocker, just open-ended enough that you’re not really sure if it’s open-ended, but ultimately a good and satisfying closer.

In my reviewing I try very hard to find something, anything, to offset possible gushiness in an article, because I don’t want to write love letters.  I’m having a very hard time finding anything, to be honest.  It was well-written, well-acted, well thought out, and lovely to look at — I’m talking about the cinematography, you creeps.  Er, mostly.

The major pity here is that, as it was a Sky One program and not BBC, I’m not sure what the odds are of a US television release.  Other Sky programs have made it onto R1 DVD, so there’s always a possibility if the ratings are good enough.  Which, as it has fortunately lived up to all the hype Sky was giving it, I’m pretty sure they are.

“Mad Dogs” is rated OMG for sex, gore, violence, dark themes, language, drugs, and men in various states of undress.  GEEKY TRIVIA: This is the second project in recent years in which Ben Chaplin has been brutally murdered, dismembered, stuffed in a box and dumped in a river.  I guess once you’ve found your niche …