Free Agents, Channel 4
Did we like it?
Last in the Comedy Showcase series, this jet-black comedy starred Sharon Horgan as a recently bereaved widow – writers’ agent Helen – and Stephen Mangan as her colleague Alex, an acting agent who has just walked out on his young family. We pick up with them after their one-night stand together, and things aren’t going too well… Some really sharp writing in this episode that went from laugh out-loud funny to toe-curlingly embarrassing. Great cast, but a tone that veered all over the place.
What was good about it?
• Stephen Mangan was ideal casting as the temporarily homeless Alex. Equally as keen to find a semi-permanent bed for the night as he is to take things further with Helen, his post-coital attempts at humour had us squirming. Nobody does the “putting your foot in it” schtick better than Mangan. His comments on seeing that Helen’s bedside drawer contains quite a few condoms were buttock-clenchingly embarrassing: “You’re saying that ‘This is 2007, I can buy hundreds of condoms – it doesn’t make me a slut!’” To which Helen replies, “Or it’s me saying, “It’s 2006, I can buy condoms to have sex with my fiancé.” (The recently deceased Pete) The camera pans back to reveal the bedroom covered in photos of Helen and Pete.
• Sharon Horgan was great as the sardonic Helen – trying to let Alex down as gently as possible. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to sleep together. Ever again.”
• Frances Tomelty as Helen’s randy mother Sylvia – shacked up with talentless actor Tod who is almost young enough to be her grandson.
• Anthony Head as Alex and Helen’s foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed boss, “You’ve been bashing some gash, haven’t you?!” and “Let’s find ourselves some F*ck buddies and spend the rest of the evening up to our nutsacs in some beautiful strangers’ minge!”
• Some of Alex’s lines were real peaches: “I don’t normally cry after sex. Though Before and During is pretty much standard.” And when 50-something Sylvia reveals that she and Tod are trying for a baby, Alex’s contribution to the conversation is an incredulous, “How?!”
What was bad about it?
• It was a very brave move to juxtapose the comedy and heartache so often, but sometimes the contrast was just too glaring.