Eyes Down, BBC1

by | Aug 15, 2003 | All, Reviews

Lily Savage creator Paul O’Grady is steadily transforming himself from Britain’s best drag act (by far) to all-round actor/entertainer, but if he was looking for a vehicle then perhaps he shouldn’t have chosen one that took him straight to sitcom hell.

Eyes Down has all the subtlety and originality of a brick, and an obvious, derivative brick at that. The bingo club setting is pure Peter Kay, and the humour pure “aren’t Northerners daft/strange/unhygienic?”, but with none of the real Phoenix Nights bite. The characters include a watered-down Victoria Wood-alike café manageress (complete with Wood-alike hairstyle), a Janet from Two Pints Of Lager-alike (played, impressively enough, by the real Janet, Sheridan Smith), and Gaz from Two Pints as well, reborn as Bobby with a different actor. There are also some old ladies who smell of wee (of course), a timid-in-love mummy’s boy with a funny haircut, and a decrepit old cleaner (the ever-great Edna Doré) who talks endlessly about her sex life and medical problems, like a watered-down Victoria Wood’s mum in Dinnerladies.

O’Grady’s Ray is the club manager in charge of this lot, and he plays the part with a sour resignation that may not be entirely fictional. The script is a relentless barrage of one-liners, most of them obvious but some, nevertheless, quite funny. However a stand-up act delivered by seven people isn’t the same thing as a sitcom, and the jokes’ impact is dulled by the two-dimensional context (not to mention a canned laughter track tellingly cranked up to 15).

Episode one contained the regulation attempt at non-PC boundary-challenging, in the shape of a disabled adultress with a midget husband (cue “Paraplegics have feelings, you know”, “She hasn’t, not in her legs, anyway”). However even they were spoilt by a clichéd mistaken-identity plot which saw O’Grady punched at eye-level (i.e. in the nuts) by mini-hubby as he innocently tried to unjam her wheelchair.

Writer Angela Clarke probably thought that getting Paul O’Grady for her first sitcom was a huge advantage. In fact it’s the opposite; this should have gone out quietly on BBC3 as a first-attempt show, but instead O’Grady’s status propelled it straight to terrestrial primetime, where it simply doesn’t belong. As it is, it represents a strong cast and expensive production, both wasted on second-rate material.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

15/08/2003

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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