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If ever you wanted to know what a sitcom written by a twenty-two-year-old would be like then here's your chance. That's not to disway young writers from working in television, but more to say that Two Pints of Lager makes BBC2's "comedy night" a violation of the Trades Descriptions Act.
Filled with terrible performances, two of the main cast come from Hollyoaks, this being their first venture into "comic" acting. Natalie Casey in particular seems to be encouraged to constantly overplay her lines, much like a sixth form play. Will Mellor does a little better, though even Sheridan Smith and Ralf Little, who had proven themselves in The Royle Family, seem directed to be as over the top as possible. Smith isn't helped by having to say the name "Jonny" virtually every single sentence. This leaves Beverley Callard, who isn't bad, and Kathryn Drysdale who gets a clichéd "dizzy" character, almost patronising in its lazy banality.
The scripts are full of sexual references that go too far into juvenile crassness to ever really be funny. "Treat him like a tampon dip him in once and then throw him away" is Casey's motto. The second episode, meanwhile (wittily titled Spunk) sees Drysdale craving for a mouthful of "spunk" after she hears it has a lot of calories and wants to gain weight. Steptoe and Son never had that sort of problem.
The "jokes" that aren't based around sex (about 0.0001%) fall similarly flat. "Did you ever see that film Scum?" "Is that the one with all those dogs?" "No, that's 101 Dalmatians." No, I didn't laugh, either. Try this: "I'll hurt you, I know Feng Shui." No? The shallow plots are equally embarrassing. The fifth episode, Lard, sees Jonny contrivedly fancying his girlfriend's best mate. While his girlfriend in turn tries her hand for a single week at stand-up comedy. They seem to derive less from real-life experience, more from a second-hand viewership of traditional sitcoms. Like the basic plots of Terry and June rehashed with a few references to blow jobs put in every sixth line.
As far as I'm concerned there are two main divisions of situation comedy: character comedy and joke-orientated comedy. The latter is like Friends, where a group of actors stand around saying funny lines at one another. The former would be like, say, Till Death Do Us Part, where the humour grows organically out of the various quirks and eccentricities of the main cast. Two Pints of Lager isn't either, as the one-liners aren't funny enough to fulfil the feedline-punchline format, and the cartoon cut-outs mean describing it as a "character" comedy is the only joke you'll get out of this pretty lame affair.
The saddest part of all this is that this grim and self-conscious comedy isn't even the worst British sitcom of the last five years, not by a long shot. I still haven't counted Barbara, The Fitz, Days Like These, Married For Life, The...
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