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Review: ‘The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin’ is A Lesson in Comedy

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Apple TV+ continues to astound me with its hidden gems (as I patiently wait for a second season of Severance). I’m so delighted to have been allowed to screen the entire season of The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin. Noel Fielding is an absolute comedy genius who’s been on my screen since I was a teenager, staying up late for episodes of The Mighty Boosh. Then, a few more years of enjoyment came from his repeated opportunities in the hilarious I.T. Crowd. So, finally, seeing him get solo top billing felt overdue, and I’m glad it happened for him.

Dick Turpin was an actual highwayman in England, notorious for his deeds of theft and burglary. The series is an absolute romp in highly fictionalized accounts of his mischief; the legend of Dick Turpin is quite exaggerated throughout history but makes for brilliant storytelling. Bits of truth penetrate the surface, such as his upbringing by his butcher father and his involvement with the Essex Gang. 

[Warning! – Light spoilers for The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin below]

So many laughs in The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin

It’s labeled a historical comedy, but the second word is the more relevant in this case. A couple of episodes had me nearly rolling off my couch onto the floor in laughter. I had to pause occasionally to gather my breath and calm myself before resuming. It wasn’t strictly from the recurring jokes in regards to his first name, Dick, but those moments made me chuckle like a kid.

The back and forth with his trusty Essex gang composed of Moose Pleck (Marc Wootton), Honesty Courage (Duayne Boachie), and Nell Brazier (Ellie White) had impeccable chemistry. So many side characters kept my attention; the ones that came to mind immediately were Craig the Warlock (Asim Chaudhry) and Jonathan Wilde (Hugh Bonneville) for their repeated mannerisms that had me in a chokehold.

Seeing Dick Turpin get the best of Jonathan Wilde repeatedly without even trying was the gift that kept on giving. Even Dick Turpin’s relatives, father John (Mark Heap) and cousin Benny (Michael Fielding, and yes, there is a relation to Noel), kept the laughs fresh with their theatrics in getting their butcher shop steady with customers and finer cuts of meat. It was also a delightful surprise to get Diane Morgan as a guest star for one episode, proctoring Craig the Warlock’s magical abilities.

Group photo of Essex gang, (L to R) Ellie White as Nell Brazier, Noel Fielding as Dick Turpin, Marc Wootton as Moose Pleck, and Duayne Boachie as Honesty Courage
The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin. (L to R) Ellie White as Nell Brazier, Noel Fielding as Dick Turpin, Marc Wootton as Moose Pleck, and Duayne Boachie as Honesty Courage (AppleTV+)

Locations and costumes were on point

Filming on location always trumps a green screen, and the sets for The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin were gorgeous and time appropriate. It felt like I entered a Renaissance fair with more smallpox and better hair. Fielding’s fabulous gothic flair is spectacular in every get-up he dons. Even better, the series allows him to play into it and associates his clothing with his haute couture abilities. Clothing is even designated quite important as Dick Turpin stresses the importance of liberation through fashion.

The recent overuse of digital location inserts has become tiring, and this series avoids that entirely. The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is set in the village of Hempstead and has a cozy little pub that our troupe of Highwaymen (and woman!) frequented. The quaint locale is bustling with countryside life and has a beautiful forest attached. The Essex Gang set up camp in that forest when they weren’t frequenting the local pub. Craig the Warlock’s treehouse also makes me want to be a kid again so I could reside there permanently.

One episode ventures into London, slightly reminding me of the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, with much less grime on the surface. The Syndicate (a secret group that controls ALL crime in England, even muggings!) has a gorgeous manor from which they operate and a dingy prison to complement their aspirations. Seeing many redcoats did throw me for a loop, but then I remembered the time and setting, and eventually, it all clicked back into place. 

Where the stories liberties worked for Dick Turpin

If you Google the real Dick Turpin, you’ll see he was finally caught, tried, and hanged at only 34 years old. Fielding is already in his 50s, so I’m happy they took such liberties with the accounts of Turpin’s escapades. More than once, a couple of fake-outs make you wonder if he will bite it early on and live through flashbacks. Anachronisms were plentiful in every episode, but were so well utilized that they made A Knight’s Tale seem relatively tame. Speaking of, the theme song will invade your mind by episode 3, and you’ll be singing along with your best falsetto voice attempt. 

The exploits of Dick Turpin were fascinating yet simple, such as robbing “The Unrobbable Coach” and dealing with the consequences of meddling with it. Nell’s inner conflict of working for an imbecile (everyone else’s words, not mine) was something to note for later on. Although she initially struggles with accepting such a poor leader who doesn’t know what he’s doing, she eventually welcomes his staggering kindness. 

Honesty and Moose were purely comic relief, and they were so good at it. I was also genuinely moved by Moose’s care of Jonathan Wilde’s son, Christopher (Samuel Leakey), when Dick and Jonathan had to work together. There’s even a touching moment when Christopher does a nice deed for Moose that tenderly boosts the morale of both. Honesty reminds me of that one friend in the group that you keep around so that you can make sure nothing happens to them of their own volition. Regardless, the unwavering support of Dick from these two makes for endearing scenes for the gang.

Asim Chaudhry as Craig the Warlock
Asim Chaudhry as Craig the Warlock (AppleTV)

What’s next for The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin?

The finale offers a chance to return to Hempstead if they want to tell more made-up stories for this highly amusing series. As mentioned, barely any historical accuracy gives them the creative freedom to retell his exploits. There are some extra scenes after the credits roll on a few episodes, and I implore you not to miss them. The last one opens a door previously closed within that same episode. I was thrilled to see it happen, and you should see it for yourself, so I won’t say anything more.

One of the most infamous (and false) stories about Dick Turpin was a 200-mile ride on a horse named Black Bess, so that could be a fantastic springboard to drive a second season. Then there’s his actual capture and death, where he was found out for writing a letter to his brother-in-law while jailed.

He used the moniker John Palmer, which I also think could be a subplot if we are lucky enough to get more! In this story, he is a single child, so maybe they could introduce a secret sibling his father kept hidden. Who knows! Since it’s about the laughs over truths, I can’t even fathom the potential hi jinks they could summon with an extended family. 

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin begins streaming on AppleTV+ on March 1st! Have you seen the trailer for it already? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or join The Cosmic Circus Discord for discussions and more!

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

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