While it's not normally the policy of this column to review continuing TV series, especially of the 30 minute episode variety, the sheer quality of Andy Hamilton's writing and the subtle performances from Timothy West (Andrew Oldfield), Sheila Hancock (Alice Oldfield), Stephen Tompkinson (Paul Newcombe) and Claire Skinner (Sarah Newcombe) put this serio-comedy into a class of its own. Constrained by its physical setting (3 suburban bedrooms) and its time setting (bedtime) it could easily have become static, but in the six parts of the first series at least the expected blends with the unexpected to produce some absorbing television.
Take for example the plot line involving the Oldfield's daughter's marriage, or the Newcombes' struggle to accommodate their relationship to parenthood. Neither is quite what it seems, yet in retrospect what happens seems inevitable. The third couple, Sapphire the Kiwi girl and Gulliver her `celebrity' boyfriend really a threesome with the tabloid journalist artfully played by Meera Syal - are perhaps the least involving but very entertaining nevertheless.
So far we've only viewed two episodes of series 2 (things are slow down under), but the quality has been maintained. The Oldfields could easily become a bore (Andrew certainly is) but somehow fresh things keep happening, and Sheila Hancock's Alice somehow keeps her equanimity despite him and the other tribulations. Perhaps after 30 years of living with someone like Andrew you develop an immunity to attention-seeking behaviour.
Andy Hamilton, who once wrote for `Not the Nine O'Clock News' and `Drop the Dead Donkey', seems more serious-minded here, but with the aid of some splendid actors has produced more than just comic archetypes. There must be thousands of couples out there just like the Oldfields (though it is unlikely an Andrew would recognise himself), and we can empathise with the Newcombes, though their problem turns out to be a bit more unusual. I hope things don't get too bizarre and this show remains a gem.
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