The former Great British Bake-Off hosts retool themselves as witty assassins in a cute, if scattershot, series of vignettes.
A rule of television and film that I’ve just made up states that there’s never a bad time for any amount of montage set to Plastic Bertrand’s “Ça plane pour moi”. A good soundtrack elevates any scene, even when what it’s scoring is less than phenomenal. Unfortunately, that rule holds true for Hitmen, an inoffensive and frothy series that never quite manages to be more than the sum of its parts.
A Sky One sitcom airing in the U.S. on Peacock, Hitmen reunites comedy team Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, probably best known in the States for their tenure as hosts of The Great British Baking Show (which we all called Bake Off anyway). Created and written by Joe Markham and Joe Parham, Hitmen revolves around BFFs and business partners Fran (Perkins) and Jamie (Giedroyc) as they wrangle things like dating apps and birthday party planning whilst trying to stay ahead of the competition. That business? Hitmen (Hitpeople?), naturally.
Working for the mysterious Mr. K. (Stephen Boxer), each episode revolves around a particular hit and the comical mishaps that befall Fran and Jamie as they try to carry it out. Fran is the brains of the operation, and the one actually employed by Mr. K., while Jamie is really just along for the ride and to support her friend. As such, Perkins and Giedroyc are the most static cast members, while the “hit of the week” is a revolving cast of familiar British TV faces.
The only other recurring characters are Liz (Tonya Cornelisse) and Charles (Asim Chaudhry), Mr. K.’s other killers-on-retainer, and the ones who have the cooler gadgets and the better one-liners. The ongoing competition between the two teams is used just enough–a later episode when they are forced to work together maybe leans too heavily on the “or CAN they trust them?!” plot elements, but still works as a pleasant change from just Fran and Jamie in their van.
More a series of vignettes than a cohesive season, Hitmen is great at building up Fran and Jamie’s backstories within their current adventures (Jamie can’t find anyone to attend Fran’s birthday party because last year a venue’s blacklights revealed Fran to be covered in blood); but sometimes it does feel like we’re being told that these two are lifelong friends without anything to back that up. A few more memories or possibly even a flashback or two wouldn’t have been entirely out of place.
For the most part, the six brief episodes are well-paced and wrap up nicely, though there are a couple flops in the mix. A bottle episode where the pair are trapped in their van by a enraged dog falls flat, and the recurring storyline of Fran’s lavendar marriage to gay moocher João runs out of steam far before the script thinks that it does.
Hitmen excels most at making the audience care about Fran and Jamie almost to a fault.
Hitmen also (possibly for the best) never really tries to wrangle with any of the moral or ethical considerations of Fran and Jamie’s job. The hits are people who have offended Mr. K. in one way or another, and while none of them are particularly innocent, neither have they done anything so dire as to require death; Hitmen excels most at making the audience care about Fran and Jamie almost to a fault. We’re fine at the end of an episode when a hit goes right because we want Fran and Jamie to have a good day.
All in all, Hitmen isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it’s a solid, cozy binge watch, particularly for fans of Mel and Sue, and anyone who enjoys a good musical montage.
Hitmen premieres on Peacock on August 6th.
- “Punky Brewster” is an exercise in empty nostalgia - February 24, 2021
- “The Luminaries” is shiny but isn’t gold - February 13, 2021
- In “Elizabeth Is Missing”, memory is mystery - January 3, 2021