Watching this show probably isn’t one of them. Channel 4’s new comedy drama is big on concept, but disappointingly lightweight in realisation. It could be worse, but it could be a lot better, too.
The idea – having a group of late-twentysomething friends set themselves goals to achieve before reaching the big three-zero– is brilliant, crisply defining the show’s target audience and limiting the comic potential only to the writer’s imagination. The problem is that, going by the first episode, that imagination is too limited to make worthwhile use of such a liberating idea.
The four friends comprise a straight guy, an out-and-open gay guy, and two straight women (if the preoccupation with sexual orientation seems a bit strange, that’s how it felt when it was laboured throughout the entire episode). They all work together; one of the women is the boss, and the other shares a flat with the gay man (cue lots of well-worn straight/gay domestic stuff).
So far so unimaginative, but it gets worse. This week’s Thing To Do was turn a gay person straight or straight person gay, depending on your point of origin. The flat-sharers found themselves in competition for handsome new colleague Glen, but couldn’t decide which side he played for (cue lots of well-worn indicators of gay/straight status. Plus the revelation that Channel 4 News viewers are invariably gay). In the end, Glen was asked what his favourite song from Cabaret was. He replied “I’m straight”. And that, believe it or not, was the plot.
A red-hot script could save something like that, but this one was lukewarm, generally over-wordy and leaving the show virtually bereft of visual humour. Being set in an office didn’t help, since it drew inescapable – and unflattering – comparisons with one of the all-time great TV comedies, in which nothing much happened either, but it was all in the dialogue and performances.
The performances in this one weren’t wonderful, with everyone trying just that bit too hard to establish an instant group dynamic. The exception was Georgia Mackenzie as boss-lady Zoe; she was previously Nurse Judy in the disappointing medical sitcom tlc, and after moving on to this she needs to have some sharp words with her agent.
This was only the first episode, and things could get better. The characters could calm down and gel as a group, the show could lose its obsession with sexuality, and someone could remember that on TV the jokes don’t all have to be made with words. I wouldn’t bet on it though.