Belgium is a darker, funnier place than you might otherwise suspect. The new comedy The Out-Laws reveals a Belgium where under the facade of good family is a web of deceit, secrets and murderous conspiracy, after four women plot to murder their sister’s husband. That premise doesn’t exactly scream comedy, but it’s guaranteed to be one of the most fun shows you watch this year.
It’s easy to see why the show has earned comparisons to Desperate Housewives, both shows playing with the sleazy underbelly of outwardly idyllic suburban life. However where Desperate Housewives celebrated the vapid lifestyle it attempted to lampoon, The Out-Laws is a far smarter satire, mining tragedy for a very black vein of comedy.
Flemish family values
Family is the foundation of The Out-Laws. At its heart is a story about five sisters: Eva (eldest, unable to have kids), Veerle (having an affair), Birgit (wears an eyepatch), Bekka (youngest, failing at being a masseuse) and Goedele (married to the awful Jean-Claude). As children they swore a blood oath to always look out for each other, but as adults, this oath takes a perverse turn for the sinister when Eva, Veerle, Birgit, and Bekka conspire to do away with their sister’s husband, the controlling, scheming and generally gross, Jean-Claude (affectionately referred to as 'Jean-Prick').
Family drama is played for dark laughs as secrets are revealed, schemes continually come undone, and two failing life insurance agents bumble their way through an investigation into the death to avoid bankruptcy.
You really want them to kill this guy
We know from the opening at Jean-Claude’s funeral that someone succeeds in killing him off; part of the fun of the show is in finding out the who and how of the murder.
Through flashbacks, each episode unfolds like a kind of Road Runner and Coyote cartoon, as the sisters cook up elaborate death traps, only to have them (sometimes quite literally) blow up in their faces. It also offers a chance to really grow to dislike Jean-Claude. Manipulative, mean and a misogynist, by the end of the first episode you may actually find yourself wishing you could also be involved in the plot to kill him. Perhaps more disturbing though, is finding yourself laughing along with him as he tricks an elderly neighbour into believing his bogus medical advice.
Like all great villains, you kind of love him a little, even if you’re happy to see him get his just deserts.
Even the good guys aren’t that good
No one is particularly good in The Out-Laws, with lies and secrets in abundance. Even the insurance agents who begin to investigate the events surrounding Jean-Claude’s death are driven by completely selfish motivations: if they pay out his life insurance, their family business will go bankrupt. To avoid this, two slightly terrible families collide. However it’s this very human grounding that stops the show from losing itself to cartoonish absurdity, deftly flipping between drama and comedy to accentuate both.
Watch it now before the US remake
Like a dictator with a missile program, the US keeps threatening the world with remakes of European television, and The Out-Laws is no exception.
Details offered in a Guardian interview with the show’s creator, Malin-Sarah Gozin, suggest that all of the proposed remakes sound varying degrees of terrible. And that’s being generous. Get in on the original series now, before a sanitised version limps its way into the world.