I never got on with Derren Little’s Benidorm, I only saw the first episode admittedly but it seemed packed with mean characters bickering and being horrible to each other. That can work if done well (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for instance) but there was a cruel edge to the show, especially when it came to it’s treatment of the overweight, that annoyed and so even though there was the odd funny moment (mostly involving Steve Pemberton) I didn’t watch the rest of it.
I’m always open to giving a writer a second shot though so thought I’d check out his latest effort, a BBC1 comedy that rather being set in sunny Spain is in the distinctly British seaside town and slightly less appealing Scarborough. In many ways it’s quite similar to Benidorm though as it features a selection of very English characters who moan away about their lives, Stephanie Cole’s Marion could especially have walked off of the set of Benidorm and on to this, as she complain about gay men being on tv and tells an anecdote to her daughter about how a cat wandered in to a neighbour’s house and shat on his mincemeat.
Her daughter Karen (Catherine Tyldesley) is the central character, who puts up with her moaning mother and deliberates whether it’s worth staying with her boyfriend Mike (Jason Manfield) who recently cheated on her with the supposedly slutty Hayley Cox (Claire Sweeney). Meanwhile the rest of the cast is made up of various work colleagues and friends, including Geraldine (Maggie Ollerenshaw) who runs the hairdressers Karen works at, and Bigsy (Steve Edge), Mike’s flat mate who does everything he can to avoid paying the rent. They’re by no means uninteresting characters, but so far little of what they do and say is that funny.
There’s not particularly much of a plot for the first half of the episode, it’s just these various characters hanging out and bantering with each other, and though there’s the occasional amusing moment there’s way too many painful attempts at humour. Mike makes references to Robin Williams’ sitcom Mork and Mindy which presumably went way over the heads off much of the audience, Bigsy has a whole routine about how “Jimmy Saville had the right idea” and though Mike’s shocked by such a suggestion, and it turns out Bigsy means about not liking women and how he “used to call them brain damage” it’s still deeply unpleasant material.
There’s also a subplot involving a customer of Geraldine’s whose Doctor has told her not to strain when using the toilet, Hayley’s fresh out of prison boyfriend “Tony Peroni” being all kinds of pissed off with Mike for getting off with Hayley, and it all comes to an end at a karaoke night where all of the characters interact whether they want to or not. I presumed it was building up to a big pay off, an incredibly funny set piece of some kind, but it doesn’t do that at all. Instead it sets up a potential plot for the rest of the series, and then cuts back to the pub and nothing happens in what feels like a very misjudged scene.
Perhaps it will improve as it goes along, and it certainly has a strong cast who all turn in great performances. But elements of it feel a bit too cartoonish (Bigsy and Karen’s workmates especially), the majority of the cruder jokes feel like the kind of thing that’s been done countless times before, and the more dramatic parts just didn’t work for me, so unless I start to hear that it’s suddenly become enormously funnier it’s something I won’t be bothering with again.