It's a new dawn in Staged – David Tennant and Michael Sheen are getting along again. The air between them has cleared after their extended therapy sessions with the actors who were reading to play them in the US network remake of the show. David is buoyed by his TV job being on again. The production has moved to Northampton and he will be leaving soon.
But their issues with their Hollywood agent Mary (Whoopi Goldberg) and the remake haven't changed. It got back to Mary that they turned their auditions with A-List Hollywood actors into psychotherapy sessions and not only did they drive all of those actors away from the remake, but they are now laughing stocks in all of Hollywood. But Hollywood is so far away, even if its inhabitants can be a zoom screen on their laptops. Mary has reached her last nerve with these two. She's convinced they've been cursed by a wizard and washes her hands of them.
But David and Michael aren't out of the game yet. They are tenacious like the cockroach. There is still Tom (Ben Schwartz), Mary's hapless assistant. Poor hapless, geeky Tom who just wants to be everyone's friend, especially David's. He is putty in their hands as they manipulate him into telling them that their parts in the remake have already been cast. It's top-secret but it's a done deal. Simon (Simon Evans) is going to meet the new stars to talk about a rewrite of the script. Knowledge is power, and David and Michael bribe Tom into letting them crash the zoom call with offers of hanging out with him when they next hit LA.
And the stars who have been cast are… PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE and CATE BLANCHETT! The show saved the biggest for last and the climax of the actor standoffs for this. It's Simon's moment of triumph – until David and Michael crash the call. Turns out Phoebe used to know David – she was his original co-star on series 2 of Broadchurch until he pulled a horrible trick on her that got her cut from the show. He destroyed her career and she only came back by creating and writing Fleabag for herself because no one would hire her. It wasn't illegal or a #MeToo moment but it was baaaaaaaaaaad. David and Phoebe hate each other's guts. Alternate Science Fiction universe at play again, kids! Michael and Cate fawn over each other until she lets slip that she accidentally cost him the lead in The Hobbit by singing the praises of Martin Freeman. Cate ruined Michael's career!!! Now they hate each other's guts. Nothing like making enemies of hot A-Listers. Simon sees his credibility slip away with every exchange the actors throw at each other. David and Michael's sabotage ultimately claims Simon's Hollywood career. Funny how this treads the thin line between Comedy and funny, cringe-inducing Horror.
And that was the climax of the series. David and Michael never had a chance in hell of getting cast in the US remake of Staged. It was always going to be a kamikaze attack, a Scorched Earth carpet-bombing of Simon's career. Mission accomplished, the two of them retreat to lockdown to do movie trivia crosswords. And let's not forget that it's Evans who wrote and directed this series while also playing the perpetually-humiliated version of himself in the meta hall of mirrors. It's all over but the cleanup in the final episode coming next. Logically, David and Simon's Hollywood careers are probably now ashes too but hey, they still have friendship! Bet you thought this show was just about actors backslapping each other, right? This second series is seriously twisted. What a shame it's nearly done.
Staged Series 2 is now streaming on the BBC iPlayer. Hopefully, it will be on Hulu in the US soon.