To avoid the mini-disaster of Eyes Down, the BBC could have done worse than show its producers an episode of Trevor’s World Of Sport. It’s not so much a sitcom as that rare beast, a half-hour comedy-drama, but in terms of subtlety, characterisation and plot, it could have told the earlier show everything it so desperately needed to know.
Like Eyes Down, it’s brand new and has a big-name lead star (Neil Pearson). It has fewer established names in its supporting cast though, and its basic setup – nice-guy sports star manager with unscrupulous business partner and German lesbian receptionist – sounds every bit as unpromising as a Liverpool bingo hall with smelly pensioners.
The difference is that Trevor’s World Of Sport has class, in everything from its writing and acting to its direction and editing. The mark of the script’s quality is that you don’t notice it’s there; where Eyes Down is desperate to hit the audience with the next one-liner before they start channel-hopping, TWOS paces itself, building jokes as ideas rather than just strings of words, while still managing to pack in a full quota of snappy dialogue.
Like most things by writer Andy Hamilton (Drop The Dead Donkey) it’s a satire, in this case on the world of big-money sporting superstars and the wheeler-dealers who feed off them. But the satire creeps up on you (a Formula 1 driver who’s quietly barking mad, a footballer-turned -TV-presenter who’s quietly watching his sell-by date coming) instead of slapping you round the face. There’s Real Live Complexity too; instead of just letting Trevor show himself up by (uncharacteristically) cheering at a competing F1 driver’s crash, it takes him to his son’s school first, where he and his estranged wife are trying to put on a show of united respectability.
Pearson is on form as Trevor, in his usual slightly-complex-bloke role, while Paul Reynolds is terrific as his cut-throat partner, “poisoned dwarf” Sammy, and the rest of the cast are pretty much flawless. This one really does deserve its primetime slot.