Decline and Fall (BBC TV Mini-Series 2017)

Photo courtesy of: BBC

Decline and Fall is a deliciously quirky series that was like no other I have ever seen. Every eccentric second of it was ludicrous, yet it has opened a new and edgy sub-genre in television.

The three-part drama is set in the 1920s, and begins with the central figure, Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) as an introverted and simple living theology student, being unjustly kicked out from Oxford, due to a cruel prank played out by the riotous Bollinger Club. Lost and friendless, he is employed at an unorthodox boys’ school run by the flamboyant, experimental and often negligent Dr. Fagan (David Suchet) as a wholly unqualified and unprepared master. From his first moment in the school, Pennyfeather is bewildered by the disorder and social circus that rules the day in the backwater academy. For in this petri-dish world, the teen boys act like the real grownups and look after the running of everything, while their parents and the motley crew of disillusioned wash-ups, who have resorted to also becoming teachers at the school, are portrayed as lost souls who live like overgrown children.

But after a few dismal months in his new profession, Pennyfeather has grown fond of the bizarre comrades around him. There is the slippery Philbrick (Stephen Graham), who makes a wonderful array of simultaneous claims, such as masquerading as a Bishop, confessing he is a notorious child kidnapper and boasting he is a successful novelist. There is also the depressed and ever grumbling Prendergast (Vincent Franklin) and the glorious physical and verbal comic character, Grimes (Douglas Hodge), who is a moral delinquent, and as a result of his impulsive schemes, finds himself constantly ‘In the soup.’

Then into Pennyfeather’s dejected scene walks the mesmerising Margot Beste-Chetwynde (Eva Longoria), the charming mother of a pupil. Allured by her beauty and her spell-binding charisma, Pennyfeather falls madly in love with her and readily agrees to stay at her home for the summer and privately tutor her son. Yet, after entering her life that caters for carelessness, ease, selfishness and an utter lack of social responsibility, his world takes a rather unfortunate turn and he finds himself well and truly in the soup. With a series of magnificent disasters mounting on his plate, Pennyfeather must use the little ingenuity, but vast stores of hope he has, to break free and start again and outwit everyone around him, and even his former self.

In general, Decline and Fall was an outstanding feat of comedy and was a mad but genius work of masterful instinct in every department. The story was preposterous in its journey and so far from normality, that it was entirely new and kept me on the edge of my seat, excited and hungry for genuine entertainment novelty. It was like a parallel universe of Alice in Wonderland, except set in reality and with the unconventional and whimsical characters being strictly everyday humans, rather than talking animals or accessorise. In addition, the characters, who were portrayed sensationally well, along with the continuous social and political commentaries and many playful references to other novels or films, made it even more worthy of laughs, yet ravenously intelligent.

With a great deal of repetitive shows on the television these days, it was a treat to see something that broke the mould and I heartily recommend it, as with its richness in every quarter, Decline and Fall delivers something for everyone to enjoy and savour.

Video courtesy of: BBC

Decline and Fall (2017–)
Decline and Fall poster Rating: 7.1/10 (299 votes)
Director: N/A
Writer: N/A
Stars: Matthew Beard, Stephen Graham, Douglas Hodge, Oscar Kennedy
Runtime: N/A
Rated: N/A
Genre: Comedy
Released: 31 Mar 2017
Plot: The series sees Paul Pennyfeather as an inoffensive divinity student at Oxford University in the 1920s, who is wrongly dismissed for indecent exposure having been made the victim of a prank by The Bollinger Club.
Caroline Malcolm-Boulton

Caroline Malcolm-Boulton

Writer, Journalist at reviewsphere
I graduated from Stirling University with Honours in History, Film and Media, and have extensive journalism experience. I spent two years as Arts, Film and TV Editor at Brig Newspaper.
Caroline Malcolm-Boulton
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