One of the fun things about Plebs is seeing ancient Roman culture treated with modern attitudes. In the first episode we saw a Roman orgy through the eyes of awkward 20-somethings and in episode five we get the introduction of exotic fruit to a society completely unfamiliar with it, but immediately concerned with its resemblance to a penis.
This episode, the landlord has moved a hot Thracian woman in with Marcus and co, along with, it turns out, her husband, to Stylax’s disappointment. The Roman Empire has just conquered the Thracians’ land, and now they’ve moved to Rome to start a banana business.
The episode got a lot of mileage out of the fruit jokes. Doon Mackichan was great eating a banana with confused and borderline perverted joy and the gag that closed out the episode with Grumio eating a pineapple leaf – ‘Yeah, it’s not bad that’ – was pretty funny. I’d like to see more episodes revolve around creative premises like this (although there is only one show left in the series). Think of how much The Life of Brian got out of such scenarios; the petty politics of revolutionary groups, people misinterpreting Jesus’ speeches, Roman nobles having the piss taken out of them by crowds. Plebs could get a lot of laughs out of the world the show is set in.
The side plot this episode is about Marcus and his conflict with an old man raising funds for war veterans. Marcus donates money in order to impress Cynthia, and then has to get it back at Cynthia’s request. I quite like hearing modern slang in out of place circumstances. The show Modern Toss did this a lot, giving for example arguing astronauts on the moon a London dialect, and its funny here as well. ‘Oh, so you’re the fucking tin expert now,’ the old man says. ‘That’s right Marcus. Jog on mate.’
Marcus gets punched by the veteran and then later hits him back. The only thing worse than getting beaten up by an old man is beating one up, Stylax points out, and Marcus switches between looking heartless in front of Cynthia and being patronised as a poor lamb by her.
Back home, Grumio is forced into a fight with a Thracian child, which is filmed in slow motion with Charles Wright’s original version of Express Yourself over the soundtrack. The music on Plebs is really good; the type of music you find yourself bopping along to, and it adds to the fun, light tone of the show.
I feel every week that I’m struggling against some preconception I have that Plebs should be terrible, but I enjoy a lot about it. Episode five ends with nothing having changed at all, just like every other episode, but there are a good few funny lines, decent performances, and a fun and enjoyable tone. And every episode has been like that. Maybe ITV2 isn’t, whisper it, an utterly awful channel after all.
- ‘Those tiles may look cracked but that’s deliberate. It’s a mosaic’
- ‘Do you know you napsterbate? You sleep wank.’
- ‘We want them gone. They’re noisy, they leave their fruit everywhere…’ ‘That’s Thracist. I’m not having Thracism in my building. Those guys have suffered mate. They’ve been invaded.’ ‘And now we’ve been invaded.’ ‘Exactly. Serves us right.’
- ‘It’s not an advertisement.’ ‘I’m afraid it is, if you’re asking people to ‘ask Stylax for them now’.’ ‘What about if you put a question mark at the end? Like, ask Stylax for them now?’
- ‘So, I’m pathetic for being beaten up by an old man but I’m a monster for beating him up. I mean, what am I supposed to do?’ ‘Neither. You’re supposed to do neither.’
- ‘He was so fucking sprightly.’
- ‘You should at least be able to take a 10 year old boy Grumio.’ ‘There’s no way that beast was 10. He was at least 12.’
- ‘Suppose it would be good to get my bed back, without the Herpes-ridden teddy bear wanking in it.’