There’s a nice bundle of ideas sitting at the heart of the latest Channel 4 Comedy Lab pilot, Hung Out. The best is not a million miles away from the thinking that fuelled My Name Is Earl, concerning two guys, James and Dave, who decide to come up with a spreadsheet to keep track of what one owes the other. It’s a theme that the episode keeps coming back to across its brief running time, and it’s just the kind of thing we’d love to see fleshed out in a fuller series.
The basic premise of the show, the latest one-off commission as part of the Comedy Lab programme, is that James and Dave live in one flat in Hung Out, and the other two main characters, Alex and Lucy, live in the other. The four kick off by planning a dinner party in a slightly clunky scene with some equally clunky dialogue. But Hung Out overcomes this, and while it has a rough and ready feel to it, it does begin to hit its stride soon after.
For the upside here, Hung Out is a fun, at times quite sparky show, with some real promise amongst its clutch of acting talent. It’s when they’re all bouncing off each other that the show is at its most entertaining and successful. There’s genuine rapport between them, and it came as little surprise to learn that they’re a group of friends off screen as well as on.
That said, Hung Out does also pack a lot into one episode. As well as the aforementioned dinner party plan, and the spreadsheet, there are several other things going on, including Alex and Lucy getting a new housemate, Maya, It also introduces its characters, tries to give them each space, and throws in funny lines as it does so.
Almost inevitably, all of that proves to be far too ambitious for a single episode, and Hung Out does suffer for it (it could have had far more fun if it had more time, for instance, to focus on the scene where a pair of the characters are watching The Fly). Yet it’s easy to sit here and suggest that it perhaps would have been better to focus in and commit to one or two elements off the menu of ideas its team of writers have come up with. Because conversely, you can’t help but admire the end result anyway.
The whole idea of the Comedy Lab programme is to give comedy makers a break, and come the end credits of Hung Out, the talent here certainly deserves one. It has problems, and the sub-30 minute running time doesn’t do it too many favours. But it’s certainly worth taking a peek at. What they’ll all come up with five years down the line could really be worth keeping an eye out for.
Hung Out is on Channel 4 tonight at 12.10am (okay, that’s technically tomorrow, but we’ve not met many people who plan their day’s viewing by counting midnight as ‘morning’).