Thursday, 11 October 2012
As the nights draw in, Michael Moran searches for a nice cosy sitcom
By Michael MoranSo autumn is upon us. Apples plump on the bough, buses packed with children in brand-new blazers, and the TV channels have started to wheel out those special 'chilly evening' shows.
You know the ones: steeped in heartwarming, sentimental drollery and regional comic appeal. With Hebburn (18 October, 10pm on BBC Two), it's that Royle Family, Gavin & Stacey, Early Doors kind of cosiness that is the perfect accompaniment to a quiet night in with a big mug of peppermint tea and a few fig rolls.
It's a show that's so cynically targeted at the biscuit-eating, thermostat-tweaking demographic (by which I mean me) that it's almost annoying to have to report that Hebburn is very nearly perfect.
A loosely autobiographical sitcom written by Tyneside standup Jason Cook, the show's central character, Jack, is based on Cook but played by Chris Ramsey. Cook, meanwhile, plays a local ne'er-do-well based on Ramsey. Still with me? Good.
In this first episode, Jack, who has been making his way among the bright lights of Manchester as a writer, makes a rare return home with his new wife, Sarah, and a secret. The secret being that he's married. Some of the gags work better than others, and the overall tone of the dialogue isn't yet as naturalistic as it needs to be for this kind of show to really hit the spot. Regardless, there are still sufficient moments where you'll chuckle vigorously enough to be in danger of spilling your tea.
The cast features a couple of star names: Vic Reeves seems increasingly to be settling into bluff Dad roles, and he's a
splendid bluff Dad for Chris Ramsey's character. Gina McKee, who you might think was a shade too famous for a half-hour BBC Two sitcom, is effortlessly winning as the mum. You might just remember co-star Kimberley Nixon from a run in the BBC's Cranford a while back. It's her job to be 'us' in this veritable madhouse, and she pulls it off with a cheeky charm.
Round the cast out with a slightly dotty Nanna and a community of pirate-DVD-selling, pub-singing reprobates and you
have the recipe for a potential sitcom classic. You'll also have, as an added inducement, a spectacularly quick and easy recipe for bagels.
There's something new over on ITV2 this week too. Switch is made with as much love, I'm sure, as Hebburn but the targeting seems a shade off. This sitcom about a coven of young witches living in north London – part Girls On Top, part The Crucible – would go down a storm with girls in their early teens. So what's it doing marooned up there after the
watershed? Presumably it's supposed to catch the attention of those of us who still think like teenagers, despite being old enough to know better.
Even with the autumn chill driving bigger audiences indoors, I'm not sure Switch's witches have enough magic.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920
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