"The Goes Wrong Show": Purest Slapstick Comedy on TV Offers Comedic UK Take [REVIEW]

The Goes Wrong Show just finished its first season on BBC One in the UK and has been renewed for a second series.

It's a bit odd that no outlets really wrote about the show after its pilot Christmas show that aired over the holidays. It follows the antics of the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, run by Chris Bean, a director with ambitions far beyond his competence or commonsense. Originally a stage play called The Play That Goes Wrong, it became a hit in the West End and won the Olivier Award in 2015 for Best New Play. J.J. Abrams liked it so much he brought the play to Broadway.

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Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the writer-actors behind The Mischief Theatre Company, spun the recurring characters from the Drama Society into two hit Christmas TV specials Peter Pan Goes Wrong (2016) and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (2017). This led the BBC to commission The Goes Wrong Show in late 2019.

Weekly Slapstick in a Different Genre

The premise of The Goes Wrong Show is simple. Each week, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society performs a new play live on television. However, something always goes wrong during prep. The contractor for the set of the courtroom drama mistakes inches for centimetres and builds a tiny courtroom set that can't fit a person, let alone a whole cast. The machinery for the set of the gothic horror play don't work properly. The builder of the Tennessee Williams-style Southern melodrama builds one of the sets at a 90-degree angle. Instead of calling it off or using a different set, Bean (Shields) insists the company carry on as planned. On live television. Hilarity ensues.


The actors in the company are barely competent to start with. Everything falling apart around them does not help one bit. Each episode depicts every imaginable slapstick pratfall that could happen to a cast. Every actor's nightmare is comedy gold for an audience. Props fail and the actors try to pretend they didn't. Actors keep getting knocked unconscious and the rest of the cast pretend they're not. Stage technicians fall through the set in the background. Actors fall through half-built sets.


The show is hysterically funny. It's the only show anywhere devoted to pure slapstick farce right now. It's not at all political but you could read it as an allegory for Brexit Britain. Everyone goes along with a series of terrible decisions hoping things will get better, but things only get progressively and farcically worse — and they just double down. It could be the Fawlty Towers of this generation.

An Allegory of Britain?


You see Bean's bullheadedness in the face of impending disaster, pushing the cast and crew to go along with his harebrained belief that if they stick to the derailed, plan, things will work out. By rights, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society would be shut down after each disaster, yet they show up again every week to do it all over again, like the nation stuck in a loop of doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome. That feels like Britain right now. They're barely keeping calm as they carry on.

And somehow, quietly, Goes Wrong has gone from a stage play to successful franchise without anyone noticing.

The Goes Wrong Show can now be streamed on BBC iPlayer in the UK.

About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.