4. Hipping Hill
I suspected that this week’s outing might mark a change of pace for the series with the introduction of a photo shoot, and so it proved, as for the first time the tragedy inherent in the show outweighed the comedy. Yet while there were undoubtedly fewer laughs, the episode still maintained the gloriously high level set thus far.
Continuing on from last week’s episode, the comparisons of Coogan and Coleridge came forth again, giving Coogan an opportunity to ponder whether his drug taking is causing his anxious dreams. As Brydon read out that Coleridge struggled with his sleep and frequently blamed his drug use, you could see Coogan’s brain ticking over – could that be the reason for the episode’s superb opening?
In what was easily the funniest part of the episode, a dream sequence saw him bump into a fan (‘AHA!’), only to then have said fan ask whether the stories were true about him being a… well, I can’t repeat the word here, but suffice to say that swearing really can be funny and clever when used in the right circumstance.
Dream over, and the pair headed through the Lake District to dine at Hipping Hall, partaking in a wonderful riff about a battle taking place among the hills (“Sleep well my brother. Sleep well my sister. Don’t sleep with my sister.”) The improvised nature of the show naturally works better in some scenes than in others, but here, the pair showcased a lovely ability to feed off each other.
Once at Hipping Hall, the crux of this week’s episode began to play out: women. Coogan’s apparent womanising has already been touched upon may times in this series, but who knew Brydon would be painted in the same light? Until now, there has been a clear distinction between Coogan the playboy and Brydon the collected family man, so it was a genuine shock to see him make a play for Coogan’s PA at the show’s end.
A nice way to bring something different to Brydon’s persona, though, and perhaps suggests that part of him does hanker for his friend’s lifestyle, despite his apparent disdain for it on the surface. Brilliant, also, that he should be knocked back – sometimes, the funny man doesn’t always get the girl.
As for Coogan, Yolanda the photographer was always going to present him with an opportunity to flirt and perhaps take things a little further. The chemistry was clear to see, well played by both actors, and the revelation of a past encounter unsurprising. The Coleridge issue cropped up again as she offered him some drugs, and Coogan’s refusal – no matter how pained – suggests a new beginning, or at least a desire to start again.
It was also clever to see the tables turn at the episode’s final moment, as Coogan and Yolanda walk off into the distance like any secure, normal couple. While Brydon attempted to do his level best to disturb his happy marriage, Coogan was, for possibly the first time in the series, seemingly at peace with himself. Not so during the photo shoot itself, of course – the chin is a constant, and hilarious, source of discomfort for him.
So, last night’s episode may have lacked the laughs of previous outings, but it packed more than enough drama to make up for it. The great tragedy that has been playing out in the series came to the fore, and helped to move things along nicely. The impressions were still there, of course, and the cast looked a little bored by many of them, intelligently playing on the repetitive nature of the series. Although who could fail to be charmed by Brydon’s Spanish Michael Caine?