'The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Gives Noel Fielding Another Entertainingly Silly and Funny Comedy

'The Mighty Boosh' star plays a real-life highwayman — but sticking to the facts clearly isn't this Apple TV+ series' remit.
Sarah Ward
March 01, 2024

Who needs facts when you can have a ball with irreverently riffing on history? It worked for Blackadder decades back, then with The Great and Our Flag Means Death more recently, and now does the same for The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin. It was evident from the concept when it was announced, and the trailer afterwards as well: this Apple TV+ series is firmly in the same mode as the pirate comedy that gave streaming two wonderfully funny and heartfelt seasons, then was cancelled. The similarities don't stop being apparent now that Noel Fielding's latest stint of silliness is unfurling its six-episode first season. Accordingly, viewers looking for something to help with their Our Flag Means Death heartbreak have somewhere to turn. Everyone who loves The Mighty Boosh's Fielding when he's getting surreal — something that his The Great British Bake Off hosting stint can't quite offer, even with his outfits — is also catered for.

Awaiting in The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is an entertaining jaunt that's exactly what anyone should expect given its premise, star, his fondness for whimsy and flamboyant outfits, plus Britain's love of parodying its own past. Fielding co-writes and executive produces, alongside leading — and his brother Michael is among the fellow The Mighty Boosh alum on-screen. Dick jokes abound, because who could pass up the opportunity given its protagonist? A who's who of English comedy also features. The year is 1735. The place is the UK, obviously. The subject is a real-life highwayman. Streaming from Friday, March 1, an instantly amusing revisionist history about Britain's equivalent of Ned Kelly is the result.

Stand and deliver: as Dick, Fielding does. While he isn't attempting to be anything more than Vince Noir but an outlaw centuries back, no one creating, funding or watching the show wants otherwise. With Rhys Darby (Next Goal Wins) and Flight of the Conchords' Murray instead, Our Flag Means Death had its main star do much the same. Although chances to spot commonalities between the two shows just keep coming, it's in an enjoyable way, like hearing a cover of a beloved tune by someone that you also adore. That someone being Fielding, who has such a rich resume of hilarious and absurdist TV comedy thanks to Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Nathan Barley, The IT Crowd and Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy as well, is clearly pivotal.

If Dick Turpin isn't familiar, he's another figure from the 18th century, as Darby's Stede Bonnet was. Swap the sea for the land, though; the whole robbery angle remains the same. The son of a butcher, he was his father's apprentice, but then took on a different career as part of the Essex gang. In reality, he was executed by hanging at the age of 33. In The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin, standing on the gallows provides the opening. From there, the series steps through his time as a thief after being a vegan pacifist didn't gel with the family business. The key things that Dick takes with him when he leaves home, when his father John (Mark Heap, Significant Other) quickly replaces him with his cousin Benny (Michael Fielding, Merry Little Batman): eye-catching purple boots and a sewing machine.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin creators Claire Downes, Ian Jarvis and Stuart Lane — who've collaborated on Around the World in 80 Days, Timewasters and We Can Be Heroes before this — then puts the mascara-laden, silky-locked, jollily talkative Dick in charge of his criminal colleagues, and at odds with the usual highwayman antics. He falls into his new gig accidentally, becoming the crew's leader in the same way. Dick wants sticking up stagecoaches and dog walkers to be charming, and done with panache. Working with his version of pleather, aka parsnip leather, he's just as certain that his crew needs to be better dressed. Also, toxic masculinity definitely isn't his vibe.

As frequently chronicled in pamphlets by local scribe Eliza Bean (Dolly Wells, Pandemonium), so springs an array of episodic adventures for Dick, the wary Nell (Ellie White, Wonka), eager Honesty (Duayne Boachie, You Don't Know Me) and tender Moose (Marc Wootton, High & Dry). Cue magic mittens, a wild twist on a nun's habit as a disguise, capes, a haunted coach, warlock exams, knitting, trying to avoid letting in a witch by not saying her name a set amount of times Candyman-style, pretending to be a time traveller from 15 minutes into the future, suave rivals and other law breakers who are actually villainous, for instance. Usually on Dick's trail is corrupt thief-taker Jonathan Wilde (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey: A New Era). Also interested in his actions is crime bigwig Lady Helen Gwinear (Tamsin Greig, Sexy Beast). Plus, this is an on-screen realm where the pub is run by an eight-year-old called Little Karen (Kiri Flaherty, Darklands).

Popping up here and there are Asim Chaudhry (Barbie) as the aforementioned sorcerer, alongside Joe Wilkinson (Sex Education) as a gaoler. The cast list goes on, turning watching The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin into a game of Spot That Recognisable Face. When Fielding's Never Mind the Buzzcocks host Greg Davies (The Cleaner) makes an appearance, their banter could've been taken straight from the Spicks and Specks-inspiring music game show. The Mighty Boosh's Simon Farnaby (Ghosts) and Rich Fulcher (Still Up), Cunk on Earth's Diane Morgan, Spaced favourite Jessica Hynes, Matilda the Musical's Sindhu Vee, another Barbie and Sex Education link via Connor Swindells: one of them is never far away, all having as much of a blast as Fielding.

Breezy, goofy, impish and oddball fun bounds through the series no matter who else is on-screen with The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin's lead — and while fleshing out its frames with such top talents is among its achievements, Fielding is always the star attraction. He's also the reason that its thematic dive into finding your chosen family and being accepted for who you are still feels potent, as slight as it is. As the show builds its romp around its him, it also ensures that an inescapable sentiment lingers at every moment: 17 years since The Mighty Boosh's last episode, it's a pleasure to have Fielding taking a sitcom's centre stage and loving it once more. Here's hoping that a second season of The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin promptly follows.

Check out the trailer for The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin below:

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin streams via Apple TV+ from Friday, March 1, 2024.

Published on March 01, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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