Did we like it?
A marvellous, subtle comedy that saunters along very much like an As Time Goes By for the over 30s.
What was good about it?
• Tamsin Greig as the luckless Alice, whose life seems to be one calamity after another – none of which she is to blame for.
• The two central plots of Alice’s life followed here was her seventh attempt to pass her driving test and the unwanted attentions of her aggressive lesbian boss.
• Her driving instructor was just as hopeless as Alice in conquering the opposite sex and during their lessons, Alice spent more time offering romantic advice to woo a fellow instructor than he spent teaching her to drive.
• Matters reached a head when he telephoned her for tips from the bed he and his conquest were about to share. Flustered and with hardly any recent bedroom action herself, Alice instead passed on what the salacious Cleo had told her about her wild relationship with her boyfriend. Alice appended her advice with, “You’ve got to go really gentle.”
• The following morning as Alice and her instructor sat in their car, the female instructor ambled past in a case of severe discomfort; hobbling from one foot to the other as if she’d been ravished by a feisty flagpole. He had misheard Alice and instead he’d “gone really mental”.
• As they stopped off for the instructor to nip into the papershop, Alice was car-jacked by a robber fleeing from the papershop. As a police car followed in hot pursuit, the robber held a knife to her throat and gave her instructions on how to drive fast on the road and how to make sharp turns. All of which helped her pass her test soon afterwards.
• Meanwhile, Alice’s gossipy colleagues Milly and Cleo warn her about their lesbian boss Catherine, who has a reputation for seduction. Alice is made more anxious when Catherine insists they meet up for a meal in the posh hotel Catherine is staying at. After the meagre meal, they retire to Catherine’s room where Alice is paranoid she is going to be propositioned and so pays special attention to Catherine when she ostentatiously crosses her legs or removes her shoes and earrings. But the reason for Catherine’s interest is to offer Alice a promotion as her assistant – an offer she withdraws a few days later when she reflects that Alice’s staring at her was because of an attraction that would hamper their working relationship.
• Ditzy Milly falling in love with the silhouette of a man cast against the side of a white van.
What was bad about it?
• The fact that the concept of the story has shrunk by half with the enforced absence of Michael Landis’ Gil. The tale of how these two people meant for each other will now never be played out (unless there’s a third series – in about 2014), leaving Alice a little directionless and lost.
Love Soup, BBC1,
Tuesday 27 September 2005
What to say if you liked it
With a stellar cast, a proven comedy writer at the helm (One Foot In The Grave’s David Renwick) and the right pinch of cynicism, this wasn’t your average rom-com but rather a likeable and realistic tale of searching for love.
What to say if you disliked it
A plodding and oblique comedy drama that never truly found its way.
What was good about it?
• At last Tamsin Greig – scene-stealer extraordinaire of Black Books and Green Wing fame – now has a much-deserved starring role in primetime. As perfume counter manager Ali, she was suitably withdrawn and sceptical, a woman very much let down by life but still with an effervescent spirit intact. Her performance made sure her character appeared accessible and attractive to viewers instead of annoyingly pathetic.
• Michael Landes as American comedy writer Gil, the second half of our perfect partners destined to never meet. Vulnerable and quirky, Landes also resembled an attractive cross between George Clooney and the bloke from the Phones 4 U adverts.
• The sumptuous jazz soundtrack throughout, perfect for autumnal evenings in front of the telly.
• This opening episode was full of nice comedic touches. Ali’s observations on commuter train passengers and their irritating traits was one great example. Typical of Renwick’s writing, certain set-pieces also verged on the surreal (e.g. Ali’s teenage neighbour regularly urinating out of the window) and then the downright upsetting (dogs having to be put down, etc.).
• A brilliant scene demonstrating how annoying Covent Garden street performers are.
• Sheridan Smith’s counter worker proved to be a great comic foil to Greig’s weary boss: “Alzheimer’s didn’t really kill your granddad did it? He just forgot to wear his seatbelt”
• Mrs. Sting, Trudie Styler, in a supporting role as Gil’s barmy neighbour Irene. On discovering her husband had been unfaithful (“Does he think I’ll roll over and take it like her?!”), she threw out all of his belongings including his wheelchair-bound mother.
What was bad about it?
• This opener suffered from an insufferably slow start. Also, at 60 minutes long, it had a rather demanding running time for a programme based on two non-connected stories.
• There is a danger that the unique set-up of the two protagonists never meeting will wear thin after a few more episodes. Perhaps we just want a traditional ending with boy-meets-and-gets-girl after all?
• Renwick sometimes tried a little bit too hard with his metaphors and solemn monologues on soulmates and the meaning of life. Unfortunately, the curse of Dawson’s Creek rhetoric is never far away.