As soon as a ‘critical darling’ or ‘ratings giant’ arrives, there’s an immediate rush by TV execs and writers to create a myriad of imitations. Or bastardisations – each one eroding what made the original so exciting, to the point that you can’t identify the entertainment gold from the painfully contrived bollocks.
ITV’s Jekyll and Hyde was promoted as a cross between Downton Abbey and Doctor Who – a costume drama with added monsters. Sounds a hellofalottafun, right? There’s no way a show like that could turn out to be a steaming pile of unwatchable shite! Well, holy crap fantasy, Batman! It happened.
Jekyll and Hyde’s fatal flaw is that it doesn’t know what it is or even what it’s supposed to be. It jumps genre from scene to scene to create a trippy mess of ‘meh’.
The show begins in Ceylon, where we meet Doctor Robert Jekyll (Tom Bateman) in the midst of a Hulk moment – saving a young girl trapped beneath a rogue truck which crashed through his surgery’s walls. He soon discovers he’s the ancestor of one Henry Jekyll, and the sole inheritor of his property.
Upon his arrival in London, Robert is immediately in over his head, caught between two agencies who know more about him than he does: the ‘heroic’ MIO, who want to use him as a weapon, and the villainous Tenebrae, who want to do exactly the same.
Robert is quickly uncovering family secrets and hunting monsters with his very own ‘Scooby Gang’. Doctor Who has the Daleks. Batman has the Joker. Jekyll and Hyde has… The Cutter. The bloody Cutter, scaring children with an irrational fear of scissors everywhere! All the good names at the Monster Shop must have sold out, but if they were really struggling the writers could have tried a ‘Name Our Monster’ Kickstarter campaign. The Cutter looks even worse. He’s a man with a crab claw, who goes about ransacking Robert’s grandmother’s house more like a pissed up, pissed off builder than a creature of nightmares. He’s hilarious.
The comical horror doesn’t stop there. Oh no. Robert’s transformations into Hyde are physical comedy at its best. He roars a bit, his face goes veiny, and then he smashes things in slow motion because, well, he’s angry. Grrrr. That’s how Hyde manifests most of the time, otherwise it’s by snogging the face off any random woman that happens to be passing by.
When Hyde isn’t kissing or attempting to be sexy by sneering like a prick, he’s fighting wannabe muggers, drunks and crap monsters, punching them in the face with a ‘Pow!’ or a ‘Bang!’, cape trailing behind as he rides the tide of camp back to his cave. The bad guys, lucky for them, wear eyepatches to avoid catching even a glimpse of Hyde’s over-exaggeration, or the snooze-inducing boredom of Jekyll.
Underwhelming fantasy turns into brain-meltingly dumb mystery thriller whenever Jekyll’s in control. All Robert and his merry band of followers seem to do from episode to episode is sit around a scrabble board in a large sitting room, conveniently coming across unknown family members with terrible secrets. Still, it’s more than the whole of MIO achieve, as the secret organisation seem to be constantly trapped in an office, competing in the International Risk Championship.
To make up for the dullness of the story arc, the actors try to make the show fun by adopting a melodramatic style. Jekyll rambles on about ‘destiny’ and ‘his curse’; Captain Dance (Enzo Cilenti) chews more scenery than either of Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters; and Lilly (Stephanie Hyam) just tags along and hangs around as the love interest.
The script throws out well-worn clichés like ‘step through that doorway and you’ll never be the same again’, which makes the show even more of a bullshit pantomime. Just don’t fall into fall into the trap of yelling ‘He’s behind you!’.C hange the channel instead.