The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

When I'm Sixty-Four

New sitcom. The Old Guys. Roger Lloyd-Pack and Clive Swift in a show which I’m sure every television critic in the land is calling Peep Show forty years on, because it’s written by the Peep Show guys and my brain is tired can I stop thinking now.

If you were to broaden your terms of reference, you’d see that it’s closer to The Odd Couple, the stage show that became a film that became a sitcom. And anyway, it’s a sitcom staple – from Hancock and James to Mayall and Edmonson. It’s what happens in any flatshare. One of you becomes the tidy, neurotic grown-up and one of you becomes the untidy, carefree juvenile.

I thought it was very good. Some very funny, idiosyncratic, out-of-left-field lines. A plot which had enough going on but not too much. It deserves to do well. I hope it gets another four or five series and a Christmas special.

It wasn’t really a surprise to see that it was a Cheryl Taylor commission. What does surprise me is that no television critics have picked up on the fact that most of the BBC’s most well-received comedies are commissioned by Cheryl. No, it shouldn’t surprise me. They are television critics, after all.

If I had to find a criticism, I didn’t quite get a sense of Roger Lloyd-Pack and Clive Swift inhabiting their characters. I don’t know if that’s because it was the first episode or merely my unfamiliarity with the characters, but there is a tendency with sitcom performances to become mannered; not theatrical, not shouty, but just banging-that-comedy-nail-in a bit too emphatically. It’s the trick of great sitcoms that they make the jokes seem incidental; you watch the shows because you love the characters. It’s not enough to just have lots of gags.

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