With the show down by over 2 million viewers for its second episode controversial art critic Brian Sewell says ITV’s new sitcom Vicious reminds him of a less progressive period for gay people.

Last month’s launch episode opened to 5.53 million viewers, but Monday’s second instalment recorded 3.52 million viewers – a fall of 2.01 million – however it was still the most watched show outside of the soaps for the evening.

Created by Will and Grace writer Gary Janetti and award-winning playwright Mark Ravenhill, Vicious sees Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi play Freddie and Stuart, a bickering gay couple who have been together for 50 years.

Brian Sewell, who in 2011 complained of there being too many LGBT characters in British soaps, has taken the show to task in the London Evening Standard.

He wrote: “Vicious, ITV’s current attempt to make a comedy of camp old queens who have lived together for too long, is well-named. Vicious is precisely what it is — a spiteful parody that could not have been nastier had it been devised and written by a malevolent and recriminatory heterosexual.”

The 81-year-old critic continued: “The trouble for the scriptwriters was, of course, that ageing homosexuals who were never aspiring actors but tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors and even art critics do not behave like pantomime dames at an audition, are not an endless source of venomous barbs, are not constantly falling into limp-wristed attitudes and are not all too ready to huff and puff in pretended hurt.

“Ordinary old homosexuals, if they ever step into such caricature, do so as the self-mocking joke with which minorities defend themselves, and the duration is not half an hour but the time it takes to say ‘Get her,’ or some such nonsense.”

Sewell believes the show reminds him of a less progressive period for gay people and that the humour displayed by the characters disguises the pain of not being able to fully embrace being gay.

“Vicious is no more than a compilation of stale travesties reaching back half a century to the oppressive years when homosexuality was so much against the law that a man could not even ask the question of another man. In public it could only be lampooned — but the lampoon was something of a safety-valve, the in-joke of self-mockery with which all minorities camouflage their secret misery.”

Sewell adds: “Vicious, in reviving all the old exaggerated jokes, the posturing, the determination to be heard, may well revive the pernicious prejudices against the faggot and the poof so long familiar to men of my generation. Remember the three teenagers who kicked a man to death in Trafalgar Square.”