Coming from the comedy genius minds of Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show) and Simon Blackwell (The Thick Of It), we were hoping for Peep Show with a Bus Pass and Arthritis. And we almost got it. But the tone was wrong (nowhere near dark enough or real enough) and, instead of being fresh and funny, it was just another humdrum BBC1 sitcom.
What was good about it?
• The quality of the script was fine – and when we imagined ancient versions of Mark and Jeremy delivering the lines, it was very funny. But Roger Lloyd Pack (as the Jeremy-like, anarchic Tom) and Clive Swift (as the Mark-like straight-laced Roy) turned in very traditional comedy performances to prevent it achieving its potential.
• Jane Asher often annoys us but she was passable as the sex symbol (yes, really) neighbour Sally. One of the episode’s funnier moments came when she caught Tom and Roy urinating in her kitchen sink.
• The funniest moment came when Tom – who had burnt his mouth in a convoluted sandwich-maker scene – appeared to be mocking Sally’s speech-impeded son Steve.
• The funny lines included Amber’s “I’m neutral Switzerland rather than slutty Holland” and Tom’s protest: “Stop saying I had a fall – I fell. Old people have a fall: Oh, no, nan’s had a fall let’s shoot her and put her house on the market.’ I simply tripped up, like footballers do – this is a sports injury!”
• There is a chance that we’ll enjoy it more now we’ve met the characters. And it is a lot better than most BBC sitcom newcomers this century.
What was bad about it?
• The chalk’n’cheese flatmates characterisation was clumsy, leading merely to petty conflict rather than Jeremy-Mark nuclear explosions.
• Katherine Parkinson tackles the part of Tom’s daughter Amber in much the same unhinged, funny-voiced manner as she plays Jen in The IT Crowd.
• The you’ll-wee-before-me strongest bladder contest “plotline”. Tiresome and childish.
• The party invite “plotline”. Hackneyed and predictable.
• The tumble over the recycling bins. It was set up so blatantly, Tom’s fall came as no suprise whatsoever.
• The laughter track. Would have been better without it.