Whether you prefer the British Office or the American version–and I think a case can be made for either–you have to concede one point to the Americans: they’re much better at keeping their actors employed. While Jenna Fischer can bounce back from a dud like The Promotion into a full-time job on a hit show, the same can’t be said for, say, her British counterpart Lucy Davis, whose post-Office resume runs the gamut from the aggressively mediocre (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) to the downright embarrassing (Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Sex Lives of the Potato Men–and no, I am not making that up).
Though several of the other British Office stars have fared somewhat better than Davis–MacKenzie Crook was great in the one Pirates movies I saw, and Ricky Gervais will never be out of work so long as he can draw breath and write–it’s the ones that shined so brightly and so briefly that interest me the most. Which is why I was particularly excited to learn this summer that a new web series was debuting that starred Ewen Macintosh, whose Keith (in American, read: Kevin) provided the British Office with some of its most memorable moments. And even wackier, it ended up also featuring the same Office‘s Jennifer (again, read: Jan). It’s called Toyboize, and it’s pretty funny.
Toyboize centers on a five-person teen boy-band–think New Kids on the Block–whose lives since the late 80s/early 90s have been somewhat less than impressive. One member (Reece) has gone onto a highly successful solo career, but the rest of them have languished in menial desk jobs and dealt with the difficulties of everyday life. So they decide to escape the tedium by doing what any foolish person in their position would do: reunite, despite each being about a hundred pounds too heavy and twenty years too old to comfortably sing lyrics like, “And it’s you I want to be with / Even though you’re only nine.”
The band’s simultaneous open jealousy and disdain for the offscreen Reece is consistenly one of the funniest aspects of the show, and Macintosh brings the same hilariously low energy to his character of Tim that he brought to Keith. The pilot is perhaps the best showcase of what the series has to offer: the documentary style is great for getting out background stories, and Nicky’s desire not to make his coming out a selling point for the reunited band gets some of the smartest laughs. After that very impressive pilot, no other episode quite lives up to the series’ promise, alternating weaker, slower episodes like the second with ones like the third, which is funny, but falls too easily in the “white guys act tacitly bigoted and minorities play straight” vein that feels well-trod by absolutely everything Gervais has ever done.
Still, all the elements are there, and the six five-minute episodes (along with many other shorter clips) are worth watching if you’re a Gervais fan. (Although Gervais isn’t directly involved in the series, he wrote the absurdly catchy theme “I Like You Girl,” which was also the Toyboize’s #2 hit, and his sense of humor is apparent throughout.) I’m waiting for it to get as good as I hoped it would based on the first five minutes, and I think it can: