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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Goodbye Sirens

Channel 4's newest comedy-drama didn't get the neurons firing, but did put a few fractures in my funnybone.

Luke, thecustardtv's editor, wasn't sure about Sirens: "I couldn't work out who it was for". But Luke wasn't the only one: the Telegraph called it 'a hellish mess' and Metro also thought it needed tidying up. As an avid fan, I took another look over the first few episodes and found it far from wanting.

Sirens is a lot less clever than its sometimes smug characters think they are, but it suffers from comparisons with similar workplace comedies like Teachers and No Angels. There's hardly a dearth of medical programming at the moment, with Channel 4 itself putting out Embarrassing Bodies, 24 hours in A & E and stalwarts Casualty and Holby City on the BBC. 
No Angels and Green Wing were a hit for Channel 4 and so Sirens seemed set to follow in their footsteps. Although Green Wing was funny, it suffered in some quarters for its surrealism which is why, by comparison, Sirens looks like Green Wing on anti-psychotics.

Stuart, Ashley and Rachid are paramedics. Rachid is the newbie, keen to impress the old hands and often failing, perhaps best exemplified in his offence at one man's 'TMI' rundown of the pros and cons of fun with a carrot and why he's likely to need the help of a proctologist. Stuart is stoic, a self-styled maverick, desperate to prove he's higher than the basic emotions that normal paramedics are victim to and unaffected by his 'barren' nether regions. Ashley is sweet; private yet kinky, experimenting with bondage with a short-lived beau.

Episode one, 'up, horny, down' was brave in examining post-traumatic stress disorder, a subject which is rarely talked about, despite it being endemic in the emergency services. Rachid considered his mortality by proposing to his girlfriend and Ashley, keen to avoid carpopedal spasm (or wrist sprain), came unstuck when he ventured online to order a mail-order man to satisfy the aforementioned 'horny' symptoms. Stuart was keen to ignore his feelings, rallying against them by visiting policewoman and friend Maxine, a woman whose death gaze you wouldn't want pointed in your direction. Even though Maxine was insulted that Stuart had come over to her place to escape sexual temptation, we also saw the relationship between the two was gentle and loving: a direction that continued through their story arc. Later in the series we see Maxine's heart (and ego) massaged by Stuart to ensure her and fireman Craig's relationship got off to a good start. But Stuart clearly holds more than a tealight for Maxine and this seems like the first two angles of a love triangle ready for the next series.

Other potential continuing storylines are Stuart's fractured relationship with his estranged dad, Rachid's troubled past and Ashley's potential lust for Stuart, who he secretly chose as his ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact.

Sirens is based on Tony Bagsgallop's blog, a comedy drama for the new media generation, but it hasn't lost any quality you'd attribute to a professional writer. Sirens reminds me of the Guardian's 'What I'm really thinking' column: a seemingly honest portrayal of the emergency services - sometimes fun, sometimes serious and always with a dark thread of potential menace and danger running through it.

Sirens keeps the bloodstream of comedy pumping throughout its six episodes, with a saline drip of pure drama. But will it be back for a second series, or will it, like the ailing NHS, suffer from haemmorhaging TV viewers and be put down? This reviewer hopes the waiting times won't be too long to find out.

Posted by Tannice for the custardtv.blogspot.com.  Follow Tannice on Twitter

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