Gags Galore

Not Going Out a

Staying In

Series one of Not Going Out was a delightful surprise. A Friday night, BBC1 comedy in the slot that had brought us the funny-for-five-episodes My Family and much other forgettable fayre, suddenly threw up a little gem. It didn’t baulk away from its comedy as so many other, more knowing, 21st century sitcoms tend to do and neither did it rely on extreme characterisation that encourages the audience to “laugh at” instead of “laugh with”. No, here was a comedy that was just a string of gags held together with that old sitcom stalwart, the flat-share. And it was brilliant. Lee Mack and Tim Vine had built a reputation on an older style of gag-driven comedy in The Sketch Show and so provided a great duo to head up proceedings as best friends, Lee and Tim (see what they did there?!). The dynamic was improved with the presence of Kate (Megan Dodds), who was Lee’s flatmate and the (secret) object of his affections. Simple set up, perfect execution.
So, the announcement of second series was met with widespread cheers but the question was, could it live up to series one? The first episodes (especially, the first “Mortgage”) were contrived around introducing a number of key changes: (i) Kate is nowhere to be seen and the role of flatmate now falls to Tim’s sister, Lucy (Sally Bretton), (ii) a cleaner called Barbara has been brought in, played by Miranda Hart, who has been funny in almost everything I’ve seen her in, and (iii) from episode 2, there has been the introduction of a boyfriend for new girl Lucy. Unfortunately, the result of these changes seemed to necessitate a re-launch of the premise, and the new characters’ roles have resulted in less screen time for Tim and Lee and more exposition. i.e. Less gags, less good.

Episode 2, was entitled “Gay” and that alone immediately made me begin to wonder whether the script was going to be a bit more Carry On than I would like. Fortunately, it was an improvement on the first episode and the gay jokes were generally inoffensive, although a little staid and tending toward the situation rather than the comedy. On the plus side the spark is very much still there. The dialogue is immediately worthy of second viewing as you are almost certain to hear a few jokes that you missed first time through. Also, now that the “new set-up” is established, the future is bright and it remains one to watch… twice!.

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