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A pilot episode was filmed in early 2003, and the rest of the series was due to be filmed and aired later that year. However, the producers of Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001) then demanded a much higher percentage of the royalties than they had originally been offered, delaying production of the series by two years. As a result of this delay Bradley Walsh, who had originally been due to return as Doddsy, dropped out and was replaced by Steve Edge. See more »
So, van Needlemans, are you happy joining Wirral?
[Van Needlemans speaks Dutch to the press. Doddsy is behind him frantically flicking through a Dutch phrasebook while Mike looks suspiciously at van Needlemans]
[jumping to conclusions]
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Long after being fired from England for losing to Lichtenstein, Mike and his wife are holidaying in Spain, with her hoping to make it a permanent move off their savings. However when he gets an offer to return to professional management though, he cannot turn it down and the pair find themselves back in the north of England with him in charge of Wirral County in Elsmere Port. He gets off to a great start (with six consecutive defeats) and he'll need to do something to keep the job.
The film Mike Bassett England Manager was a basic but enjoyable affair that kept moving forward well enough with enough energy to cover all the problems. The television spin-off from the film had potential but it also had to get more of a story to it to be able to get through 3 hours of television instead of 90 minutes of film. The plot steps down to the lower leagues and charts the struggles as a manager without the pressure to make the narrative too big. It isn't anything great but it does do just about enough to keep things moving along. The writing is pretty broad and makes reasonable mileage off the football clichés as well as the odd touch where it switches them. I personally would have preferred a bit of smarter writing given that the whole subject has plenty of room for sharp joking as well as the broader stuff although the fact that it is totally the latter is a bit of a weakness. The chief executive and the board are ripe for sharp digs but the series takes the easy option of making them basic characters.
The laughs are so-so, with some very funny moments but perhaps not that many. The series is helped by aiming for a nice basic chunk of the audience, while the laughter-track-free delivery helps because it doesn't force you to laugh. The cast are mostly quite good with their broad characters but the series is really carried by the performance of Tomlinson. He isn't brilliant but he makes it more engaging than it should be simply by the force of his personality. The support is pretty good with some of the actors from the film reappearing and do quite well. Redman is pretty good but she is acting in another series, one that has more of a serious heart to it than this one. Skinner's impression of Gazza is simple but enjoyable. Edge is understated but effective as the coach but Stevens makes almost no effort or impression as the chief executive.
Overall, like the film, this is a basic comedy but one that just about does enough to get by. The need for a six episode plot shows some weaknesses in the writing but mainly it has enough motion to it to keep moving forward. It could have been smarter and could have been funnier but it is still an enjoyable comedy that will please the football mad, male audience that it is clearly aimed at.
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