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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Boy Meets Girl: A welcome return?

Contributed by Matt Donnelly

It's great when a TV comedy can come out of nowhere and surprise you and that's exactly what Boy Meets Girl did last year. BBC Two promoted Elliot Kerrigan's sitcom as groundbreaking due to the fact that it was the first to feature a transgender character in the lead role in the form of Rebecca Root's Judy. However I was surprised to learn that at its heart Boy Meets Girl was primarily a sweet-natured old-fashioned love story between Judy and Harry Hepple's Leo.

The first series saw the couple easily get over the first hurdle of Judy's revelation of being transgender but further complications arose about when to tell Leo's family. In fact Boy Meets Girl became just as much about the conflicting views of the couple's respective families particularly Leo's judgemental mother Pam (Denise Welch) who poured scorn upon her son's relationship with Judy due to the age difference between the pair. Gradually Leo's family discovered the truth about Judy with Pam finally having a heart-to-heart with her son's girlfriend about her past. The series ended on a high with the both broods celebrating Judy's birthday at a suitably bonkers party before the couple departed into the sunset. 

Like most fans of the first series I was glad when a second series was announced but at the same time I was a little nervous to see the direction the series was going to take after Leo's family had all discovered the truth about Judy. It appears that I was right to feel this way as the first gag in which the leader of a support group believed that Pam was transgender felt incredibly cheap and something that would never have been included in the first series of the show. Meanwhile our central couple seem to be as happy as ever that is until the eternally jobless Leo gets offered employment in London. It does appear as if the prospect of a long term relationship may tear the couple apart that is until Leo pops the question at the end of the episode. 

It's hard to put my finger on why I didn't enjoy this episode as much as I had done with the first series but it just didn't feel as focused as what had come before. For example I felt that Kerrigan and co-writer Simon Carlyle were about to tell a rather sensitive story about Judy's mother Peggy (Janine Duvitski) suffering from sort of life-threatening illness. Throughout the episode we saw Peggy having several fainting fits suggesting that the likeable matriarch could be on her last legs. However we later discovered that her condition was to do with the fact that she had mistakenly thought that her daughter Jackie's diet pills were in fact vitamins. 

Similarly I felt that Carlyle and Kerrigan were taking the seemingly cliched character of Leo's workshy brother James (Jonny Dixon) in an interesting direction when he hooked up with a single mother at the end of the last series.  But there was no mention of his past relationship in this episode and instead James was escorting his recently unemployed father Tony (Nigel Betts) around the job centre. Additionally James seems to embarking on a new relationship with his mother's boss salon owner Anji (Vineeta Rishi) which seems to have been created purely to give the latter something to do. Meanwhile Tony's decision to use his redundancy money to reopen the cafe next to the salon seemed a little baffling and will no doubt provide plenty of cliched comedy moments over the next five weeks. 

Now I'm not for a moment saying that this new series of Boy Meets Girl is some sort of disaster and much of what worked last time is still there in essence. The chemistry between Root and Hepple is still strong and as a result helps me to buy into the Judy and Leo love story. The supporting cast are also on form most notably Duvitski who is great as the batty Peggy and also Betts who provides the comedy's only voice-of-reason as the down-to-earth Tony. However, based on the evidence in this first episode alone, it appears as if Kerrigan an
d Carlyle don't particularly know what to do with the characters we grew to love last year. It's almost as if they didn't have any ideas and instead have given us a lot of well-worn cliches instead. The long distance job offer, the creation of a new business and a secret relationship are all well-worn comic tropes and Boy Meets Girl doesn't seem to what to do anything particularly new with any of them. 

I'm just hoping that this is a momentary blip and I'm going to stick with it for now purely based on how much I loved the first series. But I can't say I'm not at least a little disappointed as I was expecting more from what was one of my favourite comedies of last year.

Boy Meets Girl Continues Wednesdays at 10.00pm on BBC Two.


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