While we try to judge each programme on its own merits, an ITV1 comedy usually has us cowering like an imminent nuclear holocaust. And after five minutes of this we were praying for a bout of lethal radiation sickness. But then it got better, and better, and better and even made us laugh. Promising if very, very messy.
What was good about it?
• Adrian Edmondson as Vernon, who after his divorce has moved in with his two children Milly and Max, where he impedes their transition from wizened adolescents into young adults.
• The scenes with his children were almost all uncomfortable, but not in an amusing way, and it was only when Vernon was sat in the pub with his best mate Bryan (Mark Arden) and later being seduced by the voracious Kate (Abigail Cruttenden) that Vernon’s true character emerged – a slothful hybrid of Vyvyan and Eddie Hitler.
• You’ve seen every single joke in here somewhere before, but there are moments when it’s embroidered skilfully together, such as Vernon frantically trying to find a bedroom to share with Kate with the only option the geeky David’s shrine to Star Wars. This meant Vernon had to haul the life size cardboard cut-out of Darth Vader out of the window, while at the same time pulling David from his bed and stuffing him under it, only for him to crawl back in, between Vernon and Kate.
What was bad about it?
• The single worst element of this comedy is the ubiquitous canned laughter that not only sounds as artificial as broadsheet praise of Girls Aloud, but also deafens you to punchlines and is bumped up to the ‘raucous, uncontrollable hilarity setting far too often, such as when Vernon blithely announced “Because I am wearing my old pulling trousers”, and the ‘audience’ erupted as if Basil Fawlty had taken a tree branch to a mini.
• And it’s this facsimile of soulless mirth that in fact provokes a simmering antipathy towards Teenage Kicks, as you don’t want to associate with such ‘people’ who find such humour in the dreary early scenes, and you bristle with the way in which you feel you are being ushered into fake emotions by the producers layering it with such flagrantly fabricated fun.
• Ed Coleman as Max and Laura Aikman as Milly do their best in their roles as Vernon’s children but they are poorly written parts. They are moulded and displayed like showroom dummy versions of teenagers that populate sitcoms, but have all the depth of Piers Morgan’s sneering chortle as someone tips his bound and partially-gagged body down a very deep well.
• ITV1 is a dangerous channel for new comedy to debut as you feel as if there’s a Sword of Damocles hovering over it, ready to drop the viewing figures sink below five million. And it’s this pressure to be successful that has contributed to the folly of the canned laughter. It’s much wiser for shows to begin on ITV2, like the steadily improving Laura, Ben & Him, and allow it to find its feet rather than being flushed mercilessly away.
Aired Friday 28 March 2008