At times I find that people are a lot more critical of TV sitcoms than they ever are of dramas. I believe that this is because sitcoms are supposed to provoke one sort of reaction, namely laughter, something a lot of comedies of late have failed to do.
At the same time, comedy is incredibly subjective with the perfect example being Mrs Brown’s Boys, a sitcom that I think is woeful but it drew record figures with its most recent Christmas Special. I feel that BBC One’s latest sitcom Boomers will provoke the same mixed reaction, although at least it’s not all swearing and sight gags.
Boomers focuses on a group of friends in their sixties as they gather together for various events during the course of the series. Last night’s opening episode saw the group come together for the funeral of one of their other friends, Jean, an event that sees the return to the community of Jean’s ex-husband Mick.
Mick’s return provokes excitement in Alan, although his wife Joyce is fairly sure that Mick’s arrival will see her husband get into more trouble. Meanwhile, John also isn’t thrilled that Mick is returning, due to the fact that he believes that he once tried to have an affair with his wife Maureen. Finally our third couple, Carol and Trevor, are rediscovering their relationship and are currently sleeping in different bedrooms. Mick throws yet another spanner in the works when he arrives with a new Eastern European wife in tow making Joyce and John even more frustrated. The stage is then set for plenty of hijinks involving parallel parking, power-walking and a couple of revelations.
Going into Boomers, I wasn’t expecting to like it all that much, due in part to the fact that writer Richard Pinto had previously penned the equally polarising Citizen Khan. So I was surprised to find myself believing in the central friendship group primarily due to the chemistry between the cast. Alison Steadman and Philip Jackson are particularly engaging as Joyce and Alan with her playing the concerned wife and he playing the hen-pecked husband. At time,s I felt that Steadman was playing a version of Pam from Gavin and Stacey, especially due to her domineering attitude and her insistence to be at her son’s side during the birth of her first grandchild. But Steadman’s delivery of the dialogue was excellently timed, and her line about Alan going to Marks on his own felt incredibly realistic.
Meanwhile, Jackson, who I feel is an underrated actor, conveyed his character’s life perfectly as he demonstrated how empty his life was without any real friends. Jackson’s performance as a man driven to despair by his wife will strike a chord with a lot of viewers. As the least recognisable member of the ensemble, James Smith’s turn as Trevor is perfectly pitched as he’s presented as the oddball of the group. Smith particularly shone during Trevor’s conversation with Mick’s wife Elena as they had a frank conversation about their love lives.
Despite the great chemistry between the male and female members of the cast, certain parts of Boomers didn’t ring true. I didn’t really believe in Russ Abbott and Stephanie Beacham as a couple, and neither did little in this episode to convince me that they were a couple. However, I must say that Beacham surprised me with her comic timing, and her line about enjoying a funeral was particularly amusing. Paula Wilcox failed to make much of an impression on me, although I think more time should be spent trying to understand the state of the marriage of Carol and Trevor.
Furthermore I thought that the storyline involving Mick’s foreign wife was incredibly clichéd and neither the actors nor Pinto did anything to change this feeling. I was disappointed by Nigel Planer’s one-note performance as the outrageous Mick, whose job it was to impress his friends with his swanky lifestyle in Spain. Mick’s marriage to a younger woman wasn’t the only cliché here as there were large sequences in which we saw Carol’s failure to parallel park her car. Whilst most of the dialogue was spot-on, I had a problem with the physical comedy, especially the sequence in which Steadman got very close to a hearse in order to ascertain whether or not it contained Jean’s coffin.
Although Boomers is definitely going to divide audiences, I for one have high hopes about its success. My feeling is that it’s a programme in which the cast really make the material they’re given matter and therefore bolster the sitcom’s overall quality. I found many of Boomers’ jokes to ring true, and the general theme of relationships changing as you grow older was a good one. Boomers almost functions as a British version of Friends albeit one that features a group of mates in their sixties getting into various japes.
Where Boomers gets it right for me is in its casting actors who obviously feel comfortable around each other and therefore make their friendships feel realistic. Alison Steadman, Philip Jackson and James Smith were certainly the standouts of the first episode as they all gave memorable turns. I was less impressed by the use of certain well-worn cliches and underwhelming physical gags, both of which I’m hoping will disappear as Boomers continues.
After watching the first episode of Boomers, I really feel as if Richard Pinto’s sitcom could be a success. Whilst there are some problems that definitely need ironing out, I felt that I knew and cared about the majority of the characters by the end of episode one. If the programme continues to focus on the realistic nature of its characters and less on clichés, I believe it would be even more enjoyable and would definitely provide an antidote to the brash comedy served up in the aforementioned Mrs Brown’s Boys. Boomers is a lightweight watch, with a strong cast and one that I feel was ultimately successful.
What did you think to Boomers? Do you agree with my review?
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