Review: The Witchfinder
The much heralded The Witchfinder is not a comedy nor a dramedy but a tragedy. A tragedy because although the production by Baby Cow Productions is excellent, as is the cast led by Tim Key, Daisy May Cooper and Jessica Hynes, they are let down by a puerile script, devoid of comedic lines, jokes and even visual gags. That is the most disappointing aspect of this show – writers Neil and Rob Gibbons have a pretty good pedigree (numerous Alan Partridge shows and an episode of Veep) but this script isn’t worthy of the production budget.
It is 1645 in rural England. Gideon Bannister(Tim Key) is an incompetent wannabe Witchfinder, an occupation that should be easy enough given that just about any woman can be accused of being a witch. There is a sort of running gag that nobdy knows who he is, to which he reacts by channelling Ricky Gervais/David Brent.
John Stearne, the Witchfinder General’s right-hand man, visits Gideon’s village to uncover a coven of witches. He is found murdered, why and by whom we know not, or perhaps, as Old Myers (Hynes) kind of proffers, he could have “got drunk, fallen on the straw and impaled himself on that metal thingy” which is sticking out of his chest and, visually at least, disembowelled himself. This happenstance, which is taken no further, allows Gideon to set off, with Thomasine Gooch (Daisy May Cooper), who he has already falsly found guilty of witchcraft, to engineer a ‘chance meeting’ with the WG in the hope of taking Stearne’s place.
He takes Thomasine along so that he has a ’witch’ as proof of his imagined prowess. What little humour there is in this poor script comes from Cooper’s deadpan delivery of putdowns and asides to Gideon.
The show has a 10pm time slot because of the gratuitous use of the F word and a C bomb thrown in for no good reason whatsoever – Tim Key even looks embarrassed delivering it. A simple deletion of those words, which add no comedic value, and this would be a fine programme for children, except that Horrible Histories does it all so much better.
Future episodes have some stellar cameos which may raise the game, that’s if you can be bothered to watch any more. With so much good comedy, drama and documentaries available, The Witchfinder is unlikely to be top of your must see list.