I don't usually have the strength to complain about ITV1's output. I figure it is a commercial station with a large, loyal mainstream audience and that mine would be a solitary dissenting voice among the legions of Coronation Street and Robson Green aficionados. As long as my license fee does not contribute to the pap it habitually produces, I am happy to simply steer well clear. However, occasionally a programme enters my radar that is so bad, I feel obliged to speak out. Shane is one such programme. I consider myself an apathetic slob when it comes to spleen-venting usually a shake of the head and some mild tutting is all I can muster when something gets my goat. If I'm really cross, I might be moved to change the channel. But if the BBC had the audacity to commission drivel like this, I would have half a mind to right a stiff letter to the Director General demanding my money back.
Despite it not being my cup of tea, I have the utmost admiration for ITV viewers. Anybody with the mental fortitude to regularly sit through Heartbeat and Emmerdale and actually enjoy them deserves credit, but they are being made mugs of here. Funnily enough, I actually quite like Frank Skinner. With the right format and a warm audience he can be genuinely entertaining. Fantasy Football League made him a household name, but before that, he was a successful stand-up in his own right. Good for him, but, memo to ITV executives: That does not mean he can act or write sit-coms. Skinner should have had the sense to look at previous examples of stars who have signed exclusive 'Golden Handcuffs' deals with ITV (Des Lynam and Ross Kemp, for example) it is professional suicide.
I can just imagine the embarrassing fawning and ego massaging that must go on at ideas meetings: 'Wow, Frank a sit-com? Great idea we'll give you carte blanche. A taxi driver, you say? Brilliant! I know, you can even sing the theme song! This is going to be amazing!'
Actually, it isn't amazing. It is quite, quite awful. Skinner's forte has always been his risqué gags but here he is hampered by ITV's cosy family reputation so most of those are out of the question. Instead the smut is masked by hackneyed Carry On style innuendo. Unfortunately, as turns it turns out, the risqué gags are about all Frank has in his locker and in any sit-com, if the comedy is lacking then the situation had better be pretty damn impressive. Here, it is about as criminally unoriginal as it is possible to be: A rude, neglectful husband; a good-hearted wife (quirkily attractive, but still suitably mousy and put-upon); A rebellious teenage daughter; A younger smart-alec son; A local pub with buxom bar-maid. I won't go on you get the picture. In the one episode I watched, the only discernible purpose of the other characters was to act as stooges, spoon-feeding Skinner his punch-lines. Any merit the jokes may have had to begin with is mercilessly siphoned off by the clunking, contrived set up:
Baz (to barmaid): I'll have a Coke, please.
Shane (to barmaid): I'll have a pint of Cider
Baz: 'Ere Shane, your daughter's over there with her new fella
Barmaid: Ice and lemon?
Shane: In Cider??
Baz: No, I think they're just talking
'There must be something better than this,' Skinner laments in his whining, Elvis-Costello-wannabe, West Midlands drawl during the title sequence. My advice to viewers is to take his word for it and switch to Channel 5.
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