Thursday, June 10, 2021

Timewasters, Season One

If time-travel were an option, jazz fans would definitely be tempted to go back to hear the original greats. In the late 20s, you could hear Ellington in New York and Armstrong in New Orleans, but London would not be so interesting, unless you are crazy about Ray Noble (he wrote “The Very Thought of You”). Nevertheless, that is where a scuffling and bickering modern-day jazz combo finds themselves in season one of creator-co-writer-co-star Daniel Lawrence Taylor’s Timewasters, which premieres tomorrow on the IMDb app.

There is not much rhythm in Nick Walton’s quartet—no bass or piano, just his caustic little sister Lauren on drums. He claims to be the leader and plays trumpet, with his mates Jason and Horace on tenor and trombone, respectively. Obviously, the former is the ladies man, while the latter is the goofy one. One fateful day, the irate fiancé of one of Jason’s conquests chases the quartet into a urine-stained lift (that’s British for elevator) that really happens to be a time machine operated by “Homeless Pete.” The amazed musicians think they have found temporary sanctuary in the past, but the jealous lover follows their trail, right before the lift goes on the fritz.

Fortunately, the musicians first find a gig playing for rich and vapid Victoria and her socially awkward twin brother Ralph. Subsequently, they live with and off the twins, who take a shine to Jason and Lauren. Much to Walton’s regret, they never encounter any famous musicians during the first season, but they have their fair share of misadventures and cause no end of chaos.

Timewasters
is pretty much a straight-up sitcom, but it is a well-written one. Taylor and co-writer Barunka O’Shaughnessy maintain a razor-sharp attitude and a steady 4/4 drumbeat of punchlines. Jazz fans might be disappointed that they are not a heck of a lot of musical references, but it is obviously intended for a more general audience. However, Taylor and company still manage satirize the racial attitudes of the era in ways that are smart and piercing, without belaboring their points.

Taylor is indeed quite funny as the cerebral Walton. You could argue his entire character is one big jazz in-joke. Samson Kayo wears well on viewers as the genial but somewhat dopey Horace. Kadiff Kirwan basically preens as the pretty but dimwitted Jason, but Adelayo Adedayo truly takes no prisoners as the ruthlessly sarcastic Lauren. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and she is not too crazy about anyone else either. Plus, it is a kick to see Nigel Havers (from
Chariots of Fire) guest-starring in the second episode as nutty cult-leader Dr. Eugene Braithwaite.

Timewasters
is probably the funniest genre-related comedy series since Truth Seekers, which also co-starred Kayo, even though it technically predates the Simon Pegg series in the UK. This was a shrewd pick-up from the shelf on IMDb’s part. It will not knock your socks off, but it is entertaining and sometimes quite droll. Recommended for fans of time-travel comedies, the six-episode first season of Timewasters starts streaming tomorrow (6/11) on the IMDb app.