The only real pleasure in this TV version of Four Weddings and a Funeral is hearing Alex Jennings say “Yes, I suppose you were somewhat of a basic bitch” with a straight face
“You’re insane and watch too much TV”
This lockdown has seen me sign up to too many free trials on various online TV services and so I’ve been ripping through some of the shows newly on offer to me. Over on STARZPLAY, first up for me was the TV adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral which I’m not sure if I ever knew actually existed until now.
Created by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton and airing in the US in the summer of 2019, the show is an inexplicable riff on Richard Curtis’ 1994 film. Ultimately it is nothing like the film, which is probably for the best, emerging instead as a ridonkulous Jilly Cooper-esque rom-com in a fantastical version of London (and beyond).
Jettisoning all of the likeability of Curtis’ characters and the enduring thread of friendship that linked them all together, Kaling and Warburton place four American friends at the heart of their show, who all now live in Notting Hill. And over the course of four weddings, a funeral, any number of improbable occurrences and mountains of self-indulgent behaviour, everyone ends up happy despite largely being terrible people.
Friends who don’t know what their best friend’s fiancé looks like, best friends who jump in and out of a relationship in the space of a month with no apparent effect, friends who leave their stupid Love Actually flip card messages on the airport floor or doorsteps, people who get West End starring roles with no training and just months after deciding to become an actor, million-pound lifestyles financed by…who knows what?! There’s a lot to swallow and just not enough to like.
Some aspects do work. The casting of Nathalie Emmanuel (as an American natch…) and Nikesh Patel as Maya and Kash the central will-they-eventually-get-together-as-if-theres-any-doubt couple means that there’s at least some engagement there. And there’s an impressive commitment to the portrayal of everyday Muslim life which you rarely see on British TV, aided immeasurably by Guz Khan as Kash’s best pal. Plus any chance to see Alex Jennings is good, even if it is as a gay-Nigel-Farage-with-a-heart type.
But incredibly, even though there’s 10 hours of this, there’s just not enough detail in the storytelling. Altogether, they are the least convincing group of friends you ever did see, and there’s a distracting lack of focus on these central characters and their relationships – episodes end up devoted to side characters and subplots – so the final episodes end up rushed and entirely lacking in genuine feeling. And if anyone could explain the timeframe of the final episode to me, I’d be most grateful, it rivals Doctor Who for its timeyimey shenanigans! I’d struggle to recommend this even on a freebie.