The goofy charms of Noel Fielding and The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin
The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin Credit: Apple TV+

From the moment notorious highway robber Dick Turpin swung from the noose in 1739, his exploits have been fictionalised to create a dashing, derring-do figure tearing across the English countryside.

Over the centuries, Turpin has been mythologised as a rebel fighting back against an unjust establishment, rather than as a violent criminal who was eventually executed for horse theft. Most countries have their own version of the romantic outlaw (ahem, Ned Kelly) and Turpin is England’s.

None of the stories that followed Turpin’s death have come close to the real man whose crimes included rape, pouring boiling water over an old man and killing so it’s apt that Apple TV+’s new series is titled The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin.

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This is not grounded in historical fact. At all. Which gave creators Claire Downes, Ian Jarvis and Stuart Lane carte blanche to be as goofy, ridiculous and stupendously funny as they liked, without offending any purists.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin
The unlikely but delightful pairing of Hugh Bonneville and Noel Fielding. Credit: Apple TV+

Starring Noel Fielding in a role that he was born to play, this iteration of Dick Turpin is a sweet, mostly incompetent and vegan highway robber whose successes are the result of pure luck and a teeny bit of ingenuity.

Fans of The Mighty Boosh will recognise Fielding’s brand of offbeat humour. The playful rhythm of his whippy dialogue is typically Fielding, and that’s a good thing. The gentleness of his performance is so endearing that anytime he brandishes a weapon, it may as well be a feather. You expected to be tickled.

The period setting and chaotic cadence almost evokes British classics such as Blackadder, but this whimsical series is far less belligerent or prickly. Its honeyed DNA is what makes The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin so charming. It glides right down.

Dick teams up the “fearsome” Essex Gang, which includes firecracker Nell (Ellie White), gentle giant Moose (Marc Wooton), and superfan Honesty Courage (Duayne Boachie). Together they’re ranked 49th out of 50 highway gangs, managing to only outdo a group of granddads whose uniform is a robin’s egg blue.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin
Dick Turpin and the Essex Gang. Credit: Apple TV+

They get into scrapes and adventures (those made-up ones) and sometimes they get lucky but only after a convoluted mess. It’s wacky and weird and super delightful – death ring bouts, cursed emeralds the size of the monkey’s fist and creative disguises.

Dick’s foil comes in the form of a thief-catcher named Wilde, accompanied by his young son because even in those days, babysitters were hard to come by. Wilde is played by Hugh Bonneville, he of Downton Abbey and Paddington fame, and the mash-up of him and Fielding works better than it should.

And there are plenty more gigs for British comedians and stars – many of whom Fielding has worked with and others that he wanted to work with – including Tamsin Greig, Mark Heap, Joe Wilkinson, Dolly Wells, Greg Davies, David Threlfall, Diane Morgan and Connor Swindells.

It’s a murderer’s row of funny people and that’s the whole point of The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin. It’s to have a laugh at some very silly things.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is streaming on Apple TV+

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