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When I saw the write-up for 'Not Going Out', I was dubious - Friday evening on BBC1 isn't usually fertile ground for good comedy. I actually watched it almost by accident, but it turned out to be a happy accident, because 'Not Going Out' is an underrated gem.
Lee Mack ("always cheeky, never blue") is perfect and strangely charming as unambitious slacker, Lee, and Tim 'The Joke Machine-Gun' Vine is also excellent as his accountant best friend. Their friendship is really well-observed, even if they do spend much of the time trading in jokes and insults. Up against a pair of stand-up comedians, Megan Dodds has a tough job, but more than holds her own playing Lee's landlady (and Tim's ex-girlfriend) Kate. Dodds and Mack have a natural chemistry, and make you believe quite easily that an ultra-healthy Californian publisher could fall for an unemployed northern dosser. (It's interesting that comedian Catherine Tate was in the original pilot as Kate - somehow, I can't imagine it working so well without Megan Dodds. She and Mack play off each other so well.)
At times 'Not Going Out' seems like it's a framework for a bunch of stand-up jokes (and Mack does recycle some one-liners from his BBC radio show), but as the series goes on the story lines are getting better and the characters more engaging. It has genuine laugh-out-loud moments that stay with you for the next few days, and it's just refreshing to watch a comedy that doesn't mind being daft and isn't attempting to be political or subversive.
'Not Going Out' deserves a second series, because I know that Lee Mack and Andrew Collins have a lot more gags left in the tank - and I think the fall-out arising from a Lee/Kate romance could be pretty explosive, not to mention amusing!
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