Did we like it?
While tyrannosaurus rex had an undoubted contribution to the history of the world, if through the wonders of genetics, it could be brought back to life today it would still be an evolutionary anachronism. Just like the Comic Strip.
What was good about it?
• The vague, ghostly hints of a satire of middle-class England. Bilbo (Rik Mayall) a conceptual artist who paints portraits as a blob of red ink and then expects it to sell for thousands.
• And Roy (Phil Cornwell), who is afraid of intimacy and expresses his sexuality through the largest collection of pornography on Berkshire (“This section is bestiality, some of the animals featured are now extinct”), and when the Kosovan builders constructing his garden decking romp with his repressed wife, he simply demands a 20% discount from the contractor who employed them.
• The conclusion where, inspired by the random appearance of a festive choir, the corrupt residents of the close endeavour to live a better life as Roy pledges to sell his pornography to finance a romantic trip to Paris.
• The performances were all of a high standard. Sheridan Smith made a convincingly ditzy Angie, though making her the murderess seemed a wholly illogical conclusion to an already flimsy premise. And Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Front were brilliant as a bitter couple sniping at each other.
• The opening credits remained unchanged, which was good.
What was bad about it?
• The complete absence of a plot. Perhaps the writers imagined the comedy could be ignited through a cast of grotesques, but adequate situations were required for the characters to express their quirks convincingly. The promising Carol and Charles seemed to be waiting for any chance to show off their argumentative relationship rather than let their disputes flow naturally from the script. While Jane being chased around the garden by lustful builders may have been an ironic take on Benny Hill’s outdated sexism, but it came across as a lost echo from the 80s which has only just found its way out the abyss of alternative comedy’s profound conceit.
• The Comic Strip is always revered with the same adulation as the Sex Pistols, but similarly, each was just a plastic platform for a much richer consequence. The Young Ones and Blackadder, to name but two, are examples of shows which have the attitude of the Comic Strip within them, but far outstrip them for laughs.
• Perhaps in the pampas grass laden closes of the Home Counties, Sex Actually was an acerbic spoof on the dubious morality and frustrated sensualities of the stuffy middle-classes, but to the rest of the country it was a grim indulgence.
• Nigel Planer – what was the point of his presence?
• Doon Mackichan’s talents being wasted with a mostly dire script.
• Rik Mayall playing a frustrated genius – no surprise there then.