'The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin' review: Ridiculously fun

“Stand and deliver! Please?”

If you’ve come here for a historical account of the adventures of England’s notorious 18th century highwayman, you should have read the label. Apple TV+’s rambunctious comedy series The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is exactly that, complete fabrication, with comedian Noel Fielding jumping into the powerful purple shoes of the titular anti-hero who, to our knowledge, never wore such flamboyant footwear (his loss).

A knowingly revisionist history in every sense of the word, the series feels like Monty Python meets Our Flag Means Death as far as historical parody goes, with inevitably surreal The Mighty Boosh energy. It’s the friendliest highway robbery around, featuring the most outlandish bunch of characters plucked from English history portrayed by some of Britain’s biggest comedians.

What is The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin about?

18th century characters sit around in a pub in the show "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin""

Gather ’round.
Credit: Apple TV+

Set in England in 1735, the six-episode series is a self-aware retelling of the tales of Essex brigand Dick Turpin, generally following an adventure-per-episode format. Each chapter feels like a good ol’ fashioned yarn told over pints of lager in a dark tavern, as characters themselves do. And it’s all captured by true crime “punchy pamphlet” writer Eliza Bean (Dolly Wells), who wants to “build the legend” and fuel that sweet, sweet notoriety for the gang.

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At 33, the real Turpin was hanged for horse theft in 1739, so the show is technically set in the last four years of his life. The English equivalent of outlaws like Australia’s Ned Kelly or America’s Jessie James, Turpin is the stuff of English legend, and was dramatically romanticised after his death. In this instance, the show cleverly weaves in Turpin’s celebrity during his lifetime, ranging from Eliza’s writing to the “Turpin Tours” running through the forest where guests expect “exclusive Dick action” — not the only Dick joke in the series, what do you take the writers for? As there’s so much hearsay around Turpin’s legend, it’s useless to expect the show to adhere to any kind of historical accuracy, which means significant creative freedom (and some extremely after-school-TV supernatural elements) for the writers: Jon Brittain, Richard Naylor, Claire Downes, Ian Jarvis, Stuart Lane, and Fielding. 

The Essex Gang in "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin"

The Essex Gang: Duayne Boachie, Marc Wootton, Ellie White and Noel Fielding.
Credit: Apple Tv+

Except for one episode set in London (“where the streets are paved!”), the series is set in Turpin’s home county of Essex, where he accidentally finds himself the leader of the less-than-professional Essex Gang: Ellie White as sharpshooter Nell Brazier, Marc Wootton as extremely sensitive muscle Moose Pleck, and Duayne Boachie as dramatic, empathetic tracker Honesty Courage. They’re trying to stake their claim in the county’s forests, politely robbing coaches and trying to establish a hideout that isn’t frequented by dog walkers.

Like its fellow rapscallion adventure parody Our Flag Means Death, Dick Turpin renders historical figures with gentleness and silliness, especially eroding toxic masculinity with a pride in less aggressive attributes and a flippant use of modern language: “What’s wrong mate, you’ve hardly touched your rat?” While some of the jokes feel a little dated (a Fro-yo bit, in 2024?), the script offers genuine chortles for the drama-crushed among us.

Noel Fielding’s Dick Turpin could be Vince Noir’s ancestor

Duayne Boachie and Noel Fielding in 18th century garb peer through a round window.

History but make it “Boosh”.
Credit: Apple TV+

“My first highway robbery! I haven’t been this excited since I discovered my own cheekbones!”

With his variety of feathered tricorne hats, star-spangled pleather cape, velvet justacorps, and those powerful purple shoes, Fielding wears this version of Turpin well, presenting less a highwayman more a merry bard constantly putting one leg up on a stool to tell-you-a-tale. He’s a vegan and a pacifist who prefers knit-offs to duels, building villages made of courgettes to slaughtering swans, and he polls those he robs “to improve your highway robbery experience.” Essentially, he’s terrible at this job, preferring charm and panache to violence and intimidation, leaving most of the real criminal work to his equally floundering gang.

More concerned with the power of friendship and fine-tuning his tailoring skills, Fielding’s Turpin is not the outlaw of English legend. Fielding’s in fine comedic form here channelling his previous work into the role, especially bringing The Mighty Boosh energy into the infamous criminal as if Turpin was one of Vince Noir’s ancestors. The Bake-Off host’s more wholesome style of narration comes into play when he’s explaining the benefits of needlework to his gang members or explaining “I’ve got an easy charm that the mums enjoy,” and there’s even a little “Fantasy Man” in his disguise as a man pretending to come from 15 minutes in the future.

Noel Fielding dressed in a large white blouse and blue cap in a forest.

Future Man, not Fantasy Man.
Credit: Apple TV+

This longtime dalliance with the nonsensical and surreal makes hard-to-sell scenes feel effortless for Fielding; one moment that involves convincing a ghostly baron to hand over some glittering curse-lifting mittens is a tough ask, but it’s a delight. Fielding’s allowed to go on long runs of fanciful descriptions topped off with his signature “Imagine that!” that serves to infuriate the various rough characters in the series. And his costumes, designed by Rosa Dias and Richard Cooke, look drawn right from the comedian’s own wardrobe — yes, including that nun-habit-and-bolero-jacket “disguise” in episode 3.

Fans of The Mighty Boosh will be able to spot many of Fielding’s former collaborators among the cast, including his brother Michael Fielding as Dick’s cousin Benny Turpin, Rich Fulcher as the driver of “The Unrobbable Coach”, and Simon Farnaby as unwitting rich guy Lord Saltley. But of course, they’re just a few of a veritable tidal wave of British comedians that make up the cast.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is a cornucopia of British comedians

Greg Davies as an 18th century highwayman in "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin".

Greg Davies looks like he had a blast.
Credit: Apple TV+

In what becomes a Pointing Rick Dalton marathon of British comedians and comedy actors, The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin has a stacked supporting lineup — a few of whom pretty much steal the whole show. With so much comedy talent appearing in six short episodes, the series takes full advantage, brimming with Abbott and Costello-style “Who’s on First?” routines, seeing characters cyclically repeating the same lines or unsuccessfully avoiding saying a certain witch’s name.

Joe Wilkinson is a deadpan delight as Geoffrey the Gaoler, Asim Chaudhry brings relatable fluster to Craig the Warlock, and both Sindhu Vee and Cunk On Earth‘s Diane Morgan are wildly underused as the fanciful Lady Saltley and warlock council member Maureen, respectively. Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville brings fun gravitas to Turpin’s nemesis, the relentless thieftaker general Jonathan Wild, who is given the lion’s share of Dick jokes in the script — Bonneville delivers every one with stone-faced finesse.

Two 18th century British highwaymen and an aristocratic woman stand in a doorway in "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin"

Tamsin Grieg makes every second count.
Credit: Apple TV+

However, the real highwaymen of the series, hijacking every scene they’re in, are Tamsin Greig as the powerful Lady Helen Gwinear, Greg Davies as the grizzly Leslie Duvall, and Sex Education‘s Connor Swindells as the incredibly named Tommy Silversides. As the execution-happy aristocrat and leader of the criminal Syndicate, Grieg does not waste a single line of sharply aimed dialogue. Roaring through his moment, Davies is an absolute delight bantering with his fellow Never Mind the Buzzcocks panelist Fielding as the growling leader of the Hellbenders gang. But it’s Swindells who takes the supporting crown.

Swindells paints the theatrically charismatic Tommy Silversides as the Hansel of highwaymen. So hot right now, he flaunts his Krav Maga training, horse-bound acrobatics, and penchant for push ups in a perfect blonde wig and sky blue cowboy boots. Swindells’ job is to “smash the panache” of Fielding’s Turpin and he does it with flamboyant gusto and a musical introduction. As if the writers acknowledged Swindells’ potential, Tommy at one point says (correctly) aloud, “Note to self: must do more comedy roles.”

If you’re looking for a fun, history-adjacent comedy adventure, The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is a gratifying, surrealist romp. Fielding’s Turpin may not be historically accurate at all, but his unfaltering optimism and love of knitting makes for one of the more unique interpretations of the legend.

How to watch: The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is streaming on Apple TV+ from March 1.

By 111 Tech

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