After some years making a name for himself as a serious actor and television presenter, Lenny Henry in Pieces
sees the comedian return to the world of the TV sketch show. Having always struggled to find a suitable format for his comedy (remember Delbert Wilkins?), Henry has this time settled on a fairly frantic style, with mixed results. The best bits, as has often been the case with his material, come when he draws on the rich vein of West Indian humour, particularly the more mature characters. When he heads more for the middle of the road, however, Henry starts to falter. The movie pastiches are largely uninspired, ironically coming across as little more than cast offs from French and Saunders
, and the show is lacking in the energy that so infuses Henry's stand up routines.
There certainly are some good characters (Weekend Dad and the homo-erotic trawlermen Pete and Steve especially) but after a while the lack of variety in even these creations becomes frustrating. Such repetition works in the superior ensemble piece of The Fast Show, but this falls flat over the course of the eight episodes. Looks like Lenny Henry might need to go back to the drawing board.
On the DVD: Lenny Henry in Pieces has a running time of nearly four hours, so the lack of extras may be understandable but is no less disappointing. The interactive menu is handy for skipping through some of the less engaging moments but is not detailed enough to help pinpoint specific scenes. The audio and picture quality is good enough television quality. Additional material is limited to 14 minutes of cringingly unfunny out-takes, further proof (if it were needed) that watching someone forget their lines over and over again does not necessarily mean great comedy. --Phil Udell
The complete television series of Lenny Henry in character-based sketches. Includes the West Indian pensioner Donovan Bogarde with only one thing on his mind, Weekend Dad... and a host of cinematic spoofs such as The Playtrix, and Billy Idiot.