Tv Review: Group Episode 1

group s1e1 index
BBC One Scotland are currently airing a selection of pilots each week on Monday nights though the first one, last week’s The Scotts, was pretty weak and I ended up turning it off after ten minutes as I was having angry, angry thoughts towards it. Unfortunately the second pilot, Group, is only a little bit better too, I managed to finish it but it was touch and go at times.

A sitcom about group therapy and rehab, the central idea is nothing new of course, with US sitcom Mom running for seven years now and that’s just one of many examples I could give, but it’s a strong concept and given the dramatic element there’s plenty to explore within the character’s lives. Unfortunately most of the characters in Group are either bland or annoying, the kind of people who it’s all but impossible to care about and who I’d be happier off never seeing again.

It’s a shame they’re not better written and slightly more nuanced as the show actually starts off quite well with new group member Tony (Bhav Joshi) watching a video featuring the creator of the Adam Derrickson Post Rehab Wellness Centre spout new age bullshit and we quickly learn that the process only has seven steps instead of the twelve that AA does, and so promises to help people get better far more quickly. And there’s also a vaguely amusing chat between members Billy (Jonathan Watson) and Rob (Grant O’Rourke) with the former concerned about an embarrassing penile blockage.

But once everyone arrives and the group session kicks off it all goes down hill pretty quickly, no one seems to like anyone within the group that much and they bicker and argue, with the stories they tell about their own lives often mocked by others in a way that would never happen in group therapy. Also forced is group leader Steph (Sally Reid) desperately trying to sell the members merchandise they don’t need in such a way that it feels ridiculous, which given how realistic this tries to be is a major flaw.

There’s the odd okay line which will make you smile, but mostly it’s cringeworthy stuff, and it only gets worse as it becomes more dramatic towards the end. At one point Rob starts serenading the unhappily married Nell (Lucianne McEvoy) as she confesses she knows her husbands having an affair, and it stretches credibility to breaking point, and rather than being funny it comes across as just a bit odd.

On the acting side nearly everyone turns in a great performance, with Derek Riddell especially on top form as the rehab founder Adam Derrickson, and the piece is nicely directed as well, so it’s a real shame that the script is such a let down. If this was given a full series I honestly can’t see how it could ever be something which would be entertaining to watch, not unless they got rid of writers Annie Griffin and Denise Mina and brought someone completely new in instead.

★★

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
You can currently watch the show on BBC iPlayer here.

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