TV review: Crims (3 stars)

TV review: Crims

Welsh stand-up Elis James makes his TV debut in BBC Three's new prison-based sitcom

With confinement such a routine characteristic of sitcoms, trapping disparate characters in desperate situations from which they can't escape, it's little wonder that prison appeals to comedy writers. Porridge focused on Fletcher's tiny victories against the system, sustaining his humanity by looking out for Godber. More recently, the likes of Dead Boss and Orange is the New Black have married a female perspective to the higher stakes of simply staying alive.

In this tradition, BBC Three's latest offering about a young offenders institution, Crims, is rather cosier and has many familiar elements – the resident fixer smuggling in contraband; the top dog psycho with his henchman and disturbing sentimental side; and of course, fractious cellmates. Starring Welsh stand-up Elis James in his first television role as Luke and another newcomer, Kadiff Kirwan as Jason, his girlfriend's none-too-bright brother, the pair are banged up after Luke inadvertently gets involved in Jason's bank robbery.

Notwithstanding the quirk that both actors are clearly too old to be in a teenager's jail, they're an engaging double-act – the hapless Luke, eager to keep his head down, do his time and move to Australia with his girlfriend, seemingly powerless when the oblivious, malaproprism-spouting Jason perpetually lands him in trouble. With strong support from comedian Cariad Lloyd as a tolerant prison guard and Ricky Champ as her creepily smitten colleague, the broad humour about being bummed to death can't obscure some otherwise amusing dialogue, with Jason reliably getting the wrong end of any stick and Lloyd's Dawn forever focusing on the positive, leaving James as the fatalistic voice of reason. Writers Adam Kay (Amateur Transplants) and Dan Swimer (Grandma's House) take obvious satisfaction in making him suffer, piling on the angst at the thought of his girlfriend (Lashana Lynch) growing closer to another guy, Roger, on the outside.

Crims starts on BBC Three, Thu 8 Jan .

Crims: Series Preview - BBC Three

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