Wreck: a killer duck on a cruise ship? This is TV I can get on board with – The Guardian

This camp comedy caper about students being picked off by a quacking killer is fun – but it could leave you feeling very old indeed
When I was 17, my mates and I made a man out of bread. This was and remains the most astoundingly funny thing that has ever happened to me. The late-night walk to the supermarket. The raiding of the stale discounted bread shelf. A conveyor belt full of cobs, baguettes, a tiger-loaf ribcage, a big round sourdough head. The unfurling of a single coathanger to use as connective tissue. And then, finally, the unnecessarily seductive pose we left the bread man in on a nearby bench: I was breathless with laughter. In the afternoon, when we finally woke up, all traces of the bread man were gone, which doubled me up all over again.
In hindsight I realise it wasn’t that funny, it just happened while my body was flushed with hormones and every possible emotion – joy, despair – was only felt at the absolute maximum range of my interior spectrum. But that does not stop me thinking fondly about the eight straight hours I spent chuckling about it at the time. He had iced fingers for trainers!
Anyway, BBC Three. As of this year, it’s back as a terrestrial channel, but something has happened in the meantime. Essentially: BBC Three went into anonymous online-only mode at the exact moment Netflix figured out that you can activate an audience of one or two million ferociously loyal teenagers worldwide by making one of the corniest shows possible, aimed squarely at them, and giving them between 50 and 100 episodes of it. It might be lagging behind music by a few years, but TV has firmly entered its “stan culture” era, and Riverdale and Stranger Things and Sex Education all prove that. Whenever you watch an episode from the third season of one of these shows, it is vaguely important to ask yourself: is this good? Or did it just happen when you were 17?
So now BBC Three is back, and commissioning original content again, and has some catching up to do. Here is how we find ourselves watching Wreck (Sunday, 10pm), a spooky, six-episode murder-and-sex comedy-drama set on a cruise ship. We start with Oscar Kennedy (young Liam from the very excellent Ladhood), who’s joined the fresher’s week-young crew on board the Sacramentum in an effort to find out what happened to his sister on the same ship three months ago (TV teens are always trying to solve murders). He’s joined by Thaddea Graham’s enjoyably straightforward Vivian, Peter Claffey’s huge and heartbroken Cormac, and a load of other actors who are about to get 100,000 intense new followers on Instagram. Sometimes they make friends, sometimes they snog after impromptu foam parties, sometimes they get murdered by a killer in a duck mask. So the sun rises, so the sun sets.
Is it good? I’ve only seen one episode and I suspect the solution to the murder mystery is going to be intensely annoying, but for now, yeah. It’s hard to get the tone of shows with young casts who are balancing the three plates of “snappy flirty dialogue”, “genuine-feeling friendships and enemies” and “contending with real-world conundrums”’ exactly right, but Wreck pulls off the trick in a similar way to Sex Education. The characters talk to each other like actual human beings, the pacing is enjoyably snappy and the foil of the adults contrasts well to the angsty drama of the kids (in this case, Harriet Webb, fresh from being excellent in Big Boys, is again very good in this). Add to that some decently camp murders and you can’t go wrong really, can you.
Will anyone ever describe this show as groundbreaking? No. It’s either Scream x Below Deck or a mashup of Vigil and those late-night episodes of Hollyoaks. But all this is irrelevant, because it’s deeply unlikely it is for you. When was the last time you had a Smirnoff Ice? Do you still think GCSEs are graded with letters? Have you ever made a single fancam? Does Timothée Chalamet inspire anything urgent within you, or is your favourite film starring him The King? Are you in that wilderness period of your life where you are not eligible for a single railcard? Do you even know who Emma Chamberlain is? BBC Three went away for six years and in that time you got older. Shh, shh, stop crying. We’ll always have the breadman.


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