Previously on Staged, David Tennant and Michael Sheen subtly sabotaged Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's audition to play them in the US network remake of the show. Simon and Nick tortured David by declaring they would much rather play Michael with his more proactive bouts of madness with the birds in the first episode of last season and his rich Welsh accent. They thought David was a drip, which drove him into a fit of rage. Now they've dropped out. They didn't really want to do the show anyway. So, yay?
Well, no. Their Hollywood agent Mary (Whoopi Goldberg) is extremely pissed off and wants to see them. So like schoolboys caught red-handed, David and Martin have to face the music. They start out by competing for who can look more impressive and presentable to her. Michael is shocked that David has changed out of the hoodie he'd been fused to and put on a fresh shirt. David is nonplussed that Michael has put on a tie and jacket and brought his sleeping baby to the meeting to appear sympathetic. Michael is disgusted that David has put his awards in a prominent view of the camera. Mary hasn't even come on yet and they're already off to a bad start. Michael and David are fracturing. It's every man for himself.
She points out that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost dropped out because David and Michael were utter dickheads to them. They have embarrassed her. Simon and Nick are far bigger box office and more famous than David and Michael, and they talk. Word gets around. The joke here is that Mary is the agent of every British actor in the world, and they all have to answer to her. Must be nice to have Whoopi as your agent. She would get a lot of shit done.
Meanwhile, Georgia (Georgia Tennant), Anna (Anna Lundberg), and Lucy (Lucy Eaton) are having a very good time rehearsing the scene they're playing for charity. They are the utter opposite of their men, laughing and chatting and just getting on with it in ways Simon, David, and Michael are tragically incapable of doing. They have become a Greek Chorus commenting on the men's inadequacies. At some point, they're going to discuss the Bechdel Test. In a script written by Simon Davis in a kind of meta admission of guilt and mea culpa.
David and Michael need to be corralled, and it's often a mummy figure that does it. At the climax of Series 1, Dame Judi Dench had to come in to get David and Michael back in line. Mary is even scarier than Dame Judi because she is an m-f-ing agent who can destroy them. David and Michael have proven in virtually every episode of the show that when left to their own devices, they will do the wrong thing, and they are left to their own devices way too often. As penance for screwing up with Simon and Nick, she orders them to politely, professionally, courteously read with every actor reading for their parts, for free. Let's see how good they are at following that order. This is a comedy after all, where nothing ever goes right.
It's all very well to laugh at actors. That's the whole driving force of this show, but it uses that to get at a deeper, more poignant truth. Actors are still people. Actors are unfettered by the filter of other jobs – their job is to play people, so they end up expressing the thoughts and fears of people in the most direct way imaginable. David and Michael both want to matter, and feel they matter. They don't want to be seen as insignificant or inconsequential. They are all of us. They don't want to be forgotten and being trapped at home with no purpose goes from Purgatory to Hell. Things are not about to get better. And that only leads to more comedy!
Staged Series 2 is now streaming on the BBC iPlayer. Hopefully, it will be on Hulu in the US soon.