If the original axe-wielders at the BBC had had their way, then this is a review that would never have been written. For, even before the third series of Not Going Out had finished airing, the Beeb announced that it wouldn’t be commissioning a fourth. The show was canned.
Thank goodness, then, for the persistence of Lee Mack and the team at Avalon, who somehow managed to turn the heads in the BBC’s secret bunker, and earn the show a reprieve. For the show is surely about as good a studio-set sitcom as Britain has got right now. And that’s no double-edged compliment.
Appreciating that Not Going Out is going up against laugh-desert My Family and limited shows of that ilk, it nonetheless is, for my money, at least, one of the best British sitcoms of recent times.
I mean it, too. Because, if the aim of a situation comedy is to entertain you for half an hour and get you laughing, then who can argue with what Not Going Out manages? And I, for one, often found myself laughing like a drain (terrible analogy, but it seems to be popular) at it. Time after time.
It’s not edgy. It’s not got handheld cameras. It’s not daring. It’s just funny. Very funny.
Fortunately, series four is already proving to be very funny too, even if it does kick off with one of the show’s more contrived plotlines. The narrative base of the episode is that Tim (Tim Vine) manages to grab the wrong coat, and thus find himself with a large packet of drugs in his pocket. So, then you get the coat swapping, more coat swapping, a bit of torture, and a happily ever after ending.
Still, this is all a platform for what the show does best, and once it’s put its story in place, this opening episode of series four showers you with laughs. Many of them come from structuring around the beefed up role for Katy Wix as Daisy, who gets more screen time now than Miranda Hart’s Barbara has moved on. Now, granted, Daisy is the stereotypical dimwit, but the script weaves jokes around her with skill, and Wix is strong in the part.
But it’s the main trio who remain the main reason to watch the show. We get slightly less of Sally Bretton’s Lucy in this episode, and it allows us to have plenty of fun with Lee Mack’s Lee and Tim Vine’s Tim. Both are skilful comedy performers, and here they prove so again. Mack, in particular, delivers lines with such skill it’s hard to find many comedians on television to match him. His “it’s all kicking off in Narnia” moment was priceless.
Appreciating the pressure that was on the show to come back strongly after the axe had fallen, I thought that Drugs was a smart start to a promising series. It’s not going to convert anyone who’s been left cold by the show in the past. Yet, if you go by the measurement that a successful comedy film gives you five solid laughs, then it’s surely worth celebrating a sitcom that can offer you more than that in under half an hour.
Not Going Out airs on Thursdays at 9:30pm on BBC1, and repeats on BBC HD Fridays at midnight.
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