Chickens (4 stars)

Simon Bird, Jonny Sweet and Joe Thomas spread their comedy wings in WWI sitcom

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Priority Chickens

After a pilot episode on Channel 4, WWI sitcom Chickens lands on Sky One with Simon Bird, Jonny Sweet and Joe Thomas getting another chance to spread their comedy wings on the box. As with their Fringe work (they appeared together as a threesome in the guise of The House of Windsor while Sweet and Thomas paired up as a double act), their sharp, sarky banter is on tip-top form in the opening couple of episodes of Chickens.

The second half-hour of six is actually the pilot episode reshot with Barry Humphries in the role of the school headmaster where conscientious objector George (Thomas) works on a distinctly sticky wicket. Alongside Cecil (Bird) and Bert (Sweet), the three have been shunned by the village of Rittle-on-Sea for not signing up to the war effort: while George cites his pacificism, Cecil failed on the medical grounds that he has flat feet and Bert simply doesn’t give a damn about anything other than himself and getting his end away.

The opener has the village’s women voting on which of the ‘cowards’ should have their effigy burned on Guy Fawkes Night while Cecil attempts to offset his popularity by joining the Needlework Guild (coined by Bert as Freak Corner) and George is enlisted by his fiancée to pen morale-boosting erotic missives to send to the front.

The trio are, as per usual, thoroughly excellent and there is solid back-up from Sarah Daykin as George’s reluctant bride-to-be Winky and Emerald Fennell as Agnes, Cecil’s caustic sister who attempts to reach a mutual sexual understanding with the loathed, wolfish Bert. It’s not exactly Blackadder Goes Forth, but as a platform to display the abundant comedic skills of Bird, Sweet and Thomas, it will jolly well do.

Sky One, Thu 22 Aug, 9.30pm.

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