Actor and bon viveur Stephen Toast (Matt Berry) returns to our screens in a different guise from the original comedy series; rather than the Toast of London, he’s now the Toast of Tinseltown, with this BBC revamp of the Channel 4 hit, now set across the pond in LA. Having landed a part in ‘the new Star Wars movi-e’, Toast’s career appears to be on the up, and he can forget about his trials as a voice-over artist under the talk-back thumb of the fashionatas Danny Bear and Clem Fandango. Writer Arthur Matthews is still in position, co-writing with Berry, and the results are comparable with his previous work on beloved sitcom Father Ted.
The Stephen Toast phenomenon is a hard one to quantify; you either get it or you don’t. Whereas Ted Lasso locates a transatlantic sweet-spot with feel-good, be-all-you-can be positivity, Toast of London travels in the opposite direction; Toast’s epic failures are as sour as the thespian’s tones are strangulated, and despite the presence of various SNL and US comedy alumni including Bill Hader and Larry David, the humour is very surreal and still very British. There’s no win that Toast can’t effortlessly turn into an abject loss, and Toast has lost none of his brittle texture in the off-screen years.
The character names are helpful; Fred Armisten plays Russ Nightlife, who offers Toast some accommodation in the Hollywood Hills, while Rashida Jones is Billie Tarzana, a mysterious guest at their house. Throw in Sola Mirronek, Weech Beacon, Nina Armenia, Des Wigwam, Bellender Bojangles and more, and you’ll get the feel of the baffling nature of Toast’s world. But the old stalwarts are still there, with agent Jane Plough (Doon Mackichan) reappearing in a fresh guise, and Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst) still providing moral support from the kitchen table.
Although it’s dubious whether Toast of Tinseltown involved any location shooting at all, it’s one of the most accurate pictures of the Hollywood rat race you can imagine, with Toast’s Star Wars success shrugged off by everyone he meets, and misunderstandings and old rivalries (rival Ray Purchase returns) constantly tripping up Toast’s progress. Toast is an enduring comic creation, and Berry fits him like a glove; he’s a classic fish-out-of water, and the observation of how this perennial outsider doesn’t click with the elite is still essential viewing in these comedy-starved times.
Toast of Tinseltown is on the BBC iplayer now.
I was once the subject of a newspaper headline “Toasted” so I do not look kindly on people named Toast.
In what way did the newspaper report you as toasted? Physically heated up, or the subject of a drinks reception?
Ran a cookery school and it went on fire so that was the Evening Times headline writers naturally reaction. Always a pun at hand in a time of misery.
Hmm…I’ve never heard of the original. I do like Saturday Night Live though, so all those veterans grab my attention. One I’ll add to my list, albeit near the bottom.
Yup, I think the SNL angle might help this gain some traction in the US. It’s never quite been mainstream, but if it pops up on a streamer, it’s a taste worth acquiring…
These are the kinds of films I would find through serendipity back in the pre-streaming days. It’d be on some late night channel and I’d find it when I couldn’t sleep. Not that I’m longing for the pre-streaming days, mind you!
The thrill of the hunt is gone, yes, but I still prize movies I sat up to 3.30am to tape…
This sounds like it would set off my second hand embarrasment alarm bells. Probably all 5 of them. I liked Black’s Books, but mainly because of Manny 🙂
It’s not for everyone, perhaps a bit too close to home for Alex. Black Books was great, I interviewed Bill Bailey many moons ago…
How is a Brit in L.A. close to home to me? I’ll admit I used to have a moustache like that, but I shaved it off decades ago.
A man out of time, a crusty old codger at odds with the modern world…
If you’re not at odds with the modern world then there’s something wrong with you.
Exactly. Toast is a hero, an everyman.
Does he have a large repertoire? I’ve only seen him in Black Books but couldn’t muster up the oomph to track down anything else he was in. Besides, for me, UK tv is so hit or miss that every time I start a show I feel like I’m standing on a landmine that might or might not be activated 🙂
I can imagine that. Toast has a high sexual content, so not for casual viewing. Bill Bailey is a nice guy, but there’s no obvious work to recommend.
I don’t get it. That trailer looks like total kife. And four stars? That’s Boba Fett territory.
Best comedy show for ten years, mate. You not up to speed?
Honestly, first I’ve heard of this Toast business. Looks terrible.
Fouth series, probably the best loved comedy series in the UK right now, since Ted Lasso is buried on Apple TV….have you never seen Father Ted? Big Train? Black Books?
Nope, nope, and . . . nope.
Are they as funny as those classic Britcoms Are You Being Served?, ‘Allo, Allo!, and Keeping Up Appearances? Because whenever I’m looking for belly laughs I like to tune in to what’s on in the UK.
Are you living in the 80’s? Toast is cutting edge stuff. That’s why Berry is in Star Wars, he’s literally the toast of the world right now. Arthur Matthews is a comedy genius, and anything he touches is worth a look. And this series having a US slant should bring him to a whole new audience. Put down the Charlie Chan and get into Toast!
That was painful. A real recording studio disaster was funnier.
That’s kind of the right vibe; an aging thespian struggling to navigate a changinged media. Orson Welles pea commercial, that kind of vibe. Lots of great clips on the YouTube.
Boba Fett episode 3 still brings a smile to my face. A depressed rancor and Griff Tannen’s hoverboard gang from Back to the Future 2🤣
Dix has to get on this. He’s a big Boba fan.
I know, right. Despite everything indicating this is a parallel dimension or multiverse version of the classic badass character from Empire. C’mon Dix, admit it. Even you had a wee chuckle at that “chase” scene.
I liked the chase scene. But episode 3, not so much. Now for 4…
I will watch episode 4 tonight (Japan Time) after I get back from work. Hoping for an improvement.
It’s better than 3. No more flashbacks.
Thanks! We will see which Boba Fett takes off his helmet this time, The original Alpha version or the new Disneyfied Beta one. Remember the scene at the end of The Mandolorian when Boba walks into Jabba’s palace and just executes poor old Bib Fortuna? Where’s THAT Boba Fett?
This one has tan curtains and adopts a pet. Enjoy!
I’m on it. Reviewing 3 and 4 together…
I’ve seen it! Will run 3 and 4 together..
It’s about as funny as a ton of bricks on the big toe. Blerk.
You’re no fan of comedy…
That’s true, I prefer things that are funny. Not this puerile gibberish anyway.
Sorry. Don’t mean to be insulting to people who like this stuff. Each to is own and all that.
No offense taken, it’s not for everyone.