Sir Lucien (Geoffrey Whitehead) made his name in the 60s as the most brutal of the brutalists. Unfortunately, times have changed and his love of all things concrete means his practice of misfits now only get commissioned to build car parks. Lucien is joined by his loyal-ish employees Matt (Dominic Coleman), Sarah (Ingrid Oliver (series 1), Anna Crilly (series 2)), Tim (Alex Carter) and Hayley (Aisling Bea) as they struggle to stay relevant in the 21st century.
The Architects is a new one for me. I must have missed it during its runs on the radio, and I came to it quite by chance while browing The Internet Archive. There are two series of four episodes plus one pilot. I won't discuss the pilot here as the cast was almost entirely different.
Sir Lucien is a typically Whiteheadian character: pompous, brusk, and verbose and is as enjoyable as any Geoffrey Whitehead incarnation.
Matt is, again, a typical Dominic Coleman character. A fairly likeable everyman, although occasionally prone to showing off his apparent knowledge of the world of architecture, only to have it corrected by someone else. He considers himself something of an architectural genius, but is somewhat deluded.
Sarah, sadly, falls into the trap of being the typical radio comedy token woman. Single, frustrated, and neurotic but clever, usually getting the better of her male counterparts. There's nothing wrong with this per se, but we've seen this character before in Sophie from Think the Unthinkable and Dr Ruth from Rigor Mortis, to name but two.
Tim is a strange one. Half sycophant, half dimwit. There's an undercurrent of dislike between him, Matt and Sarah, and yet there never seems to be any real acrimony towards them. In fact, in later episodes there's a degree of cameraderie between all three, as if the writers forgot what sort of character Tim was supposed to be. Tim starts as an unlikeable brown noser who keeps his distance from Sarah and Matt in order to suck up to Sir Lucien, but later in the show becomes more part of the team. At various times he's shown to be both a socially awkward, stamp collecting, battle re-enacting geek who makes poor attempts to come on to women and at the same time a bit of a ladies' man who has some success with them. He is sometimes shown to be so dim that you wonder how he passed the many years of education needed to become an architect.
For the first couple of episodes I found very little to laugh at, but as it progressed and the characters grew to become more of a team, the jokes also improved and I did find myself chuckling out loud on a number of occasions. The initial problems were that some of the characters didn't know quite who they wanted to be. Hayley, the receptionist, starts off a a bit of a ditz who, apparently, doesn't know that Deutschland and Germany are the same thing, nor that Deutsch and German are the same language, yet later in the series she's shown to be quite smart and easily holds her own in arguments with the architects, particularly Tim. She also seems to have little purpose other than as a foil for the other characters and plays little part in most of the plots, which might explain why she's quietly dropped in series 2, her absence explained as her being in prison.
I think the other problem with the program is the limited story lines you can do around an architectural firm. The setting of an architectural practice limits the potential situations in a way that the superficially similar Think The Unthinkable managed to avoid. Most of the plots revolve around the firm trying and failing to secure commissions for various architectural projects, from airports to renovating houses and restaurants. A lot of what that they do seems to border on interior design, rather than architecture, but I suppose purely architectural themed storylines were more limiting still.
And I suppose that's a good summary. It's a decent comedy that grows on you, but is never quite sure what it's trying to be.
I'll probably find myself listening to it all over again at some point, but I won't be hurrying to do so.
Rating: * * *