Have you seen The Windsors? The show, which painted a heightened picture of the Royal Family, proved a bit of a sleeper hit, and its creators are back. This time, Bert Tyler-Moore and George Jeffrie have created a new show with exaggerated versions of celebrities, curated by Virgin tycoon Richard Branson. And, although there are good elements in the show and a lot of laughs to be found, it is on the whole a weak and muddled half-hour of comedy that shows throwing loads of good ideas into a mix doesn’t necessarily result in a strong end product.
Richard Branson (Harry Enfield) is a successful businessman who enjoys using his spare time and his private island to entertain celebrities and help solve their problems. And they certainly give him a lot to work with – Adele (Morgana Robinson) is suffering from success guilt, Daniel Radcliffe (Richard Goulding) is desperately networking for a job, JK Rowling (Samantha Spiro) is struggling to put together a new book – Branson will have his work cut out in helping them all. However, is there more to the tycoon than meets the eye? What’s on the mysterious north-side of the island, where guests are forbidden to go?
Enfield makes for an excellent Branson – he saunters around, shirt wide open and in upsettingly tight budgie smugglers, with just the right blend of charm and dazzling teeth to capture the billionaire’s charm, but the furtive glances off-screen and an incredibly sinister air hint at something more going on. The absolute star of this sitcom is Spiro as Rowling, however, playing her as coarse, loud and incredibly funny. I think she gets as much screen time as Enfield, and not a moment is wasted (she bounces well off both him and Goulding).
…the big issue with Island of Dreams – it’s a giant mess
Some of the other impressions leave a lot to be desired. Tom Basden plays Daniel Craig as essentially James Bond, but a bit more insecure, and the shtick isn’t particularly funny. There’s a running joke where he keeps trying to be assertive with Barbara Broccoli, the producer of the Bond franchise, that is tried a number of times and just doesn’t land. Robinson’s Adele is probably the closest we get to an actual impression, but her material isn’t that funny. Al Murray rocks up for no time as Gregg Wallace, whose affliction is that he has no talent (a case of truth in parody), and he plays himself.
Dustin Demri-Burns made for a convincing Brian Cox, but his role was to propel the plot, and that leads me to the big issue with Island of Dreams – it’s a giant mess. The show has a lot of narrative threads, delivering on only a few, and it means there’s a lot hanging in the air when you’re done. How is Branson getting elements from space? What is hiding in the north-side cave? Well, I hope you don’t expect to find out – and it’s a huge shame, but it’s arguably more interesting than the Adele/Daniel Craig storyline that takes up a quarter of the show.
I’d recommend Island of Dreams for its humour, and the fantastic performances by Enfield and Spiro, but you’re very likely to feel disappointed when it’s done
My initial belief, based on the Bond style opening credits, was that we’d see Branson as a supervillain. This hope was furthered when a jetpack-wielding Elon Musk (Jamie Demetriou) turned up, but it was essentially a throwaway cameo to make a mental health joke. There was a lot of narrative promise in elements like this, but it just didn’t deliver (although I won’t say that for a couple of scenes in which Branson uses a hologram to resolve issues with his ‘shit’ trains – those scenes were really good, and I could’ve happily watched a half-hour of that instead).
There are most definitely laughs here, but the impressions aren’t (on the whole) that good and the show is a bit of a haphazard mess. I’d recommend Island of Dreams for its humour, and the fantastic performances by Enfield and Spiro, but you’re very likely to feel disappointed when it’s done.