I think it's fair to say that Netflix's new TV show, The Pentaverate, has not been well received by critics.
The show, which is created by and stars Mike Myers, he of Austin Powers and Shrek fame, currently has a flop-tastic 28% score (opens in new tab) on Rotten Tomatoes.
Critics have been savage. James Field of Pajiba, for example, says that, "it appears Myers learned nothing in the past 14 years, and The Pentaverate is as big a dud as he’s ever made."
While Critic Alex Hudson of Exclaim! said the show is, "little more than a cheap excuse for Myers to put on some prosthetics and do silly voices".
Brian Lloyd of entertainment.ie simply stated that, "The Pentaverate is unbelievably bad."
Here's the thing, though – I've watched most things Mike Myers has starred in since Wayne's World, which I still quote to this day, so I ignored the critics and watched The Pentaverate in its entirety to make up my own mind.
Here's my take.
Let's do this in a good old what's good and what's bad structure. But before we do that, here's a brief summary of what The Pentaverate is.
The Pentaverate, in the show's fiction, is a secret society that has been effectively guiding the course of the human development for hundreds of years from the shadows, a bit like the illuminati. The society is controlled by 5 individuals, hence the show's title, but the difference here is that unlike other secret world-controlling organisations, The Pentaverate is good not evil, and their lead members are cherry picked due to their ability to do good and further human civilisation.
It's a quite interesting show pitch in my opinion, flipping the usual evil illuminati-style secret society schtick on its head, and it's made even better by the fact that each episode of the show has a voice over by celebrated thespian Jeremy Irons, who explains the show's premise in increasingly comical ways.
Ok, so premise established, what does The Pentaverate do that makes it worth watching?
The good truth about The Pentaverate
If you're a fan of Mike Myers getting kitted out in a bunch of prosthetics and putting on a series of comedy accents then you're well served here, as Myers plays every member of the 5 Pentaverate rulers bar one, as well as the show's comical Canadian reported protagonist Ken Scarborough, who undertakes a mission to uncover the secret society. Myers also pops up as a few other characters, too.
The show visually is also impactful, veering between medieval fantasy and modern Bond-style secret bases and facilities. You've got trippy lighting, decadent sets and some crazy and outrageous costumes, all with a backdrop of a soundtrack that often leans towards religious-chanty vibes. It all combines to a bit WTF?!, which I think is kind of this show's base level.
The strongest part of the show, aside from the comedy that lands (a bit on that in a bit), is its skewering of parts of North American society, and specifically the conspiracy theorist movements that have gained so much traction in certain parts of the USA over the past few decades. From a conspiracy theory shock jock to a deluded truth hunter, Myers is bang on the money with these characters, and they have some of the best gags and lines in the show.
Indeed, conspiracy and the nature of truth (and how it can be distorted or presented in different, conflicting ways) underpins the entire show and determining what is objective truth is literally baked into the plot. This feels really topical and relevant right now in the age of fake news, social media and the manipulation of events for financial gain by vested interests. Highlighting this and making jokes off it is where Myers hits a home run in The Pentaverate.
From a comedy point of view, there's a lot of talent in this asides from Myers, including Jennifer Saunders, Keegan Michael Key, Richard McCabe, Rob Lowe and Lydia West, and for me there was always some good gags in each episode, even if as we will see the type of comedy varies dramatically and is in my opinion is without doubt very hit and miss. My typical viewing experience with The Pentaverate typically swung between being bemused, going WTF?!, enjoying some sharp satire and self-referential comedy and then, as we now get to, going "well, that didn't quite work".
But there's no doubting it's retro and hit and miss
The things about The Pentaverate that didn't work for me was the show's pretty consistent use of, typically Myers, gross out and crude humour. Scatological bits there most certainly are, as too a bucket load of double entendres and repetitive word play where a character mis-pronounces a name so it sounds rude. If anyone has seen Myers' older vehicles for this type of comedy, think of a certain fat Scottish character from Austin Powers, then you're in the right ballpark here.
Indeed, there is no doubting that these types of cruder comedy feel really rather dated by 2022 standards – I'm not explicitly stating they're bad, just that I felt they didn't feel very modern and, at least here in The Pentaverate, they didn't land for me most times. I'd find myself laughing at a quite clever and razor sharp satire one minute, then being faced with a scatological gag mere seconds laters, which felt jarring to me. There's also only so many "ha ha, this name sounds a bit rude" gags I can stomach in a 30-minute TV show.
This mixture of comedy styles also comes wrapped up, for good chunks of the series, in a general Carry On movie vibe – which actually culminates in one episode with Myers getting into his birthday suit. Yes, you've been warned!
Other things where I feel the show misses the mark is in its use of its supporting cast. There's a lot of talent in The Pentaverate but, maybe aside from Jennifer Saunders, they don't get used as much as I think they should be. This of course isn't helped by the sheer amount of characters Myers plays, which can often have entire scenes fly by with Myers talking to Myers talking to Myers.
So, I regret nothing...
So, yeah, I honestly don't regret watching The Pentaverate in full. Was it the best comedy show I've ever seen? No, far from it – it was hit and miss and a lot of its best gags were buried under cruder ones that didn't work for me.
But I tell you one thing, I'm sure The Pentaverate will be different to anything else you've seen recently, so if you find yourself looking for something new to watch on Netflix, I say give it a shot.