REVIEW: One of my great televisual regrets of last year was not sticking with Ted Lasso.
Initially dismissing the trans-Atlantic football-focused show as a tepid fish-out-of-water comedy, I failed to spot the heart and smarts at the centre of the Jason Sudeikis-starring series, which only got stronger as it progressed.
I was determined not to make the same mistake twice.
Unfortunately, Intelligence (Neon and SkyGo from June 9 and 9.30pm on Thursdays on SoHo from June 17) gave me no such cause to doubt myself.
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Created by Lasso’s kit man Nathan Shelley, better known as Yorkshire-born Cypriot-Trinidadian comedian Nick Mohammed, the six-part series is only a fitfully funny workplace comedy set in the world of governmental communications observation.
Perhaps the show’s worst crime is that it fails to live up to its name, relying solely on people doing dumb things and behaving badly for most of its laughs.
As for its protagonist, veteran CIA agent Jerry Bernstein (David Schwimmer), he comes across as decidedly one-dimensional, lacking Lasso’s inherent kindness and likely to leave many audiences cold. Actually, a better description of Bernstein would be that he is sexist, racist, arrogant and self-aggrandising (which I realise is kind of the point of the character).
His arrival at Britain’s GCHQ Centre for Cyber Security is greeted with suspicion by all the senior staff, with the exception of Joseph Harries (Mohammed). Having had a “huge email back-and-forth” with Bernstein over 9/11, the computer analyst is a huge fan and excited to see what the newly appointed NSA liaison has to offer them.
“I think we can learn a lot from each other – especially me,” Bernstein informs incredulous Centre boss Christine Cranfield (Sylvestra Le Touzel). “I’m your best possible resource, so exploit me, punish me,” he adds with a wink towards former cyberhacker Tuva Olsen (Gana Bayarsaikhan).
However, his swagger is quickly undermined by both Cranfield’s caustic resistance to his “morale boosting” suggestions and a disastrous decision to enlist Harries in a desperate bid to quickly find a toilet. Despite that – and a realisation that Harries’ obsession with Matthew McConaughey’s browsing history might not be vital to the interests of national security for either country – Bernstein believes fostering his fanboy adulation may be the only way of making an impact.
“I’ve seen everything – 9/11, Afghanistan, 7/7 – and predicted them all,” he announces, bemoaning the modern day lack of faith in “the good-old American hunch”.
It’s certainly not the worst sitcom of the last few years, and fans of cringe comedy will find plenty to enjoy, but it’s hardly a career-enhancing comeback vehicle for former Friends star Schwimmer.
On the evidence here, he might be better to stick to more dramatic roles like playing Robert Kardashian in The People vs. OJ Simpson.
Intelligence is available to stream on Neon and Sky Go from June 9 and will screen on SoHo on Thursday nights from June 17.