TV Review: Quacks

With the likes of Rory Kinnear, Lydia Leonard and Tom Basden in the cast and guests including Fenella Woolgar and Andrew Scott, Quacks is always watchable

“The bloodier the coat, the better the surgeon”

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Quacks, James Wood’s BBC4 sitcom from 2017 which I was finally able to catch up with, but it kind of landed there or thereabouts for me. Focused on a bunch of Victorian-era doctors who, in the mid-19th century, were at the forefront of the massive advances in many branches of medicine, we follow their exploits as they diagnose and treat any number of the simpering upper classes in London.

But lest we get too serious, it is very much of the Horrible Histories mode of the history of medicine, albeit dialled back just a little so that it is more of a chucklesome show than one particularly full of belly laughs. So we get Matthew Baynton’s blundering psychiatrist, Tom Basden’s hapless anaesthetist, Rory Kinnear’s arrogant surgeon and Lydia Leonard’s frustrated wife who has her own dream of practising.

And they play out a series of capers which noodle around, sometimes amusingly, sometimes just a little self-satisfactorily. There’s a lot of bumbling about in the name of silliness, so once you’re accustomed to the show’s level, it has its appeal. Fenella Woolgar is fun as Lady Campbell, Millie Thomas an officious Florence Nightingale and Andrew Scott’s Charles Dickens is pompously delightful. Gently good fun.

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