Hitmen is a good idea in a package too slight to make much use of it, and while Mel and Sue are charming as ever, the show never becomes much beyond a new setting for their patter.
To say that Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins are playing against type in the new Peacock sitcom Hitmen is an understatement – but not as much of one as you might think. Yes, the presenters of The Great British Bake Off are here playing Fran (Sue) and Jamie (Mel), two contract killers working for a crime boss who kidnap, kill, and dispose of various targets. But they’re still, basically, Mel and Sue, women who spend most of their time bickering and nattering. This isn’t Bad Boys by way of Atomic Blonde; it’s more Killing Eve by way of… well, Mel and Sue.
It’s a funny idea, taking an elaborate, exclusive vocation – in this case professional murder – and deliberately giving it the feel of a mundane nine-to-five. That’s where most of the jokes live, as Fran and Jamie’s relationship and personal problems spill into their jobs and leave a maligned guest star listening in on rants about their various love interests and professional rivals. This format is, for the most part, repeated in each of the six slight episodes comprising this debut season, which is gracing Peacock after a run on Sky in the UK, although there are some serialized elements, including an intense American rival, Liz (Tonya Cornelisse), and her partner Charles (Asim Chaudhry), who show up now and again.
The repetitive structure and small-scale feel are reminiscent of a sketch in a variety show; so few episodes is a gift and a curse, ensuring Hitmen doesn’t overstay its welcome but also that it never really manages to dig into the archetypes and clichés it’s a pastiche of. Because of this it feels imitative rather than subversive, delighting in repackaging the standard genre beats but never – or at least very rarely – managing to do anything interesting with them. All the best stuff has nothing at all to do with the assassin business whatsoever; it’s Mel and Sue being Mel and Sue in a slightly unusual context, and with a funny third-wheel listening in.
You can’t help but wish there was more of Hitmen, but then again you can’t help but wonder if it would have just ended up as more of the same. This is an idea good enough to sustain a couple of hours across six short episodes, but it’s also an idea that leans on the innate appeal of its stars and their knowing patter rather than a proper unpacking of a done-to-death genre that could have stood to be experienced from a graceless middle-aged perspective.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.