Hitmen on paper looks like a pitch in every screenwriter's drawer: a comedy about goofy contract killers on the job. That's like the default of every screenwriter. It stars British comediennes Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins aka Mel and Sue as a pair of goofy killers who are barely competent at their jobs. It is also tone-deaf and not funny at all. Mel and Sue have been a constant presence in British comedy and pop culture since the 1990s and pretty much play their comedy duo personas here, only they're contract killers.
There are plenty of ways to do a good hitman comedy, and this show fails at all of them. It lacks any real idea or theme. It was originally written with two male leads in mind before Mel and Sue agreed to star in it. They play one of many teams of killers-for-hire for a mysterious boss who assigns killers to bump off people who piss him off. It could be an accountant who stole from him, a man who had sex with his girlfriend and so on. Fran (Perkins) and Jamie (Giedroyc) can't stop chatting away about their lives as they grab their target and prepare to kill them.
Their target ends up getting involved with the issues they happen to be dealing with at the time before they finally kill them. Jamie is a goofy, cheerful idiot who often makes the job much more complicated than it should be. In the pilot, it's Fran's birthday and she doesn't want to celebrate it alone, so they invite their target to the party. Fran has a crush on one of the other hitwomen who plays hard to get. Jamie orders a fancy-dress performer to entertain Fran at their hit.
And none of it is funny. It all feels completely generic with no real surprise or punchline other than "they kill them at the end." There are no real stakes or consequences. The scripts feel underdeveloped, like four drafts and six creative notes away from becoming fully realized. They have nothing other than everyone being petty. There's an amoral dissonance in Fran and Jamie's casualness with their jobs that make them completely awful people, no matter how goofy they are. They're not even good at their jobs. There's no reason to care about them or the people they're ordered to kill. The cast is game and gurn to sell the comedy, but there's nothing funny for us to buy. Everything just thuds and lays there, comedic death. There are good hitman comedies out there. This is not one of them.
New streaming services in the US need material to fill up their libraries, so NBC's Peacock streaming service probably bought up this series to do just that. It's the kind of show you might decide to watch when you're too tired or drunk or high to switch off and go to sleep. It's certainly not a must-see show. Hitmen premieres this week on Peacock.