Bounty Hunters - No laughs in this Whitehall farce

Jack Whitehall, Rosie Perez and Charity Wakefield in Bounty Hunters
Jack Whitehall, Rosie Perez and Charity Wakefield in Bounty Hunters

It’s often said that there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy, Well, there’s an even finer line between comedy and comedy-drama. But what’s the difference?

On the evidence of Bounty Hunters (Sky One, Wednesdays, 10pm), it seems that a comedy-drama is a comedy, minus the laughs. Co-created and co-scripted by Jack Whitehall, it was essentially a by-the-numbers culture-clash buddy affair, which owed a huge debt to Midnight Run (in its dreams) and, particularly, the James Corden vehicle The Wrong Mans. Like that show, Bounty Hunters has an average Joe caught up in international intrigue, with some fairly broad, light-hearted scenes punctuated by graphic violence.

Unlike Corden’s effort though, which had a propulsive momentum from the off, this took way too much time to get going, wasting a lot of exposition on establishing Whitehall as bumbling, upper-middle class fool Barnaby – complete with Archers ringtone and a ludicrous electric car – something clear from the moment he appears onscreen.

The plot involved South American drug cartels, stolen Middle Eastern antiquities and Islamic terrorism, all brought together by hard-as-nails bounty hunter Nina (Oscar-nominee Rosie Perez) and Barnaby’s flaky sister Leah (Charity Wakefield).

And that’s where you can see a germ of a good idea. When Perez and Wakefield are together, they steal the show, and you can see a similar culture clash comedy working. Add in Whitehall and his usual idiotic toff schtick as a spare part, however, and that’s where the wheels come off.

Gunpowder (BBC1, Saturdays, 9.10pm) immersed you in a world of fear, violence, poverty and disease. You know the story, but not the detail, and this was all about the gory, grimy details.

It’s a tribute to the bombproof format of The Great British Bake-Off (Channel 4, Tuesdays, 8pm) that we’re now talking about who should and shouldn’t be in this week’s final, and not the new hosts.