ITV1’s Great Night Out: This new comedy drama has four likeable leads but has an uneven plot structure

by Matt D

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In terms of TV programming, Friday’s already been a tricky night and is usually the home of sitcoms or comedy panel shows. As ITV aren’t really known for their sitcoms, with the exception of Benidorm, Friday night has oft been the home of the dreadful Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, however thankfully, a programme has come along to change all that in the form of Great Night Out. The comedy drama centres around four Stockport lads who have been friends since childhood and now that they are in their thirties, are attempting to act like grown-ups. The programme comes from the team behind the very funny The Worst Week of My Life, and also The Royal Bodyguard but we don’t talk about that, and may well be the ideal thing for a Friday night due to its easy-going tone and uncomplicated plot.

The first episode centres around a posh wedding anniversary do that Hodge, played by Lee Boardman, is organising in Manchester and his hoping that his three best friends will also bring along company so he can capitalise on a special offer. This is easier said than done seeing as Beggsy is still hung up on the fact his wife moved to Australia with another man, and now his daughter his calling the new man dad instead of him…

Then there’s Daz, whose girlfriend Colleen wants him to go to Old Trafford with her, as her company has a box there, though due to him being a lifelong Stockport fan, this is a moral dilemma he must give great consideration to. Finally there’s Glyn, played by the brilliant Craig Parkinson, who is unlucky in love and has been in love with the same girl since he was a schoolboy. The girl is Julie, played by Christine Bottomely, who finally picks up the courage to ask to Hodge’s anniversary do however it clashes with Julie’s weekly salsa class, so he convinces local pub landlord Warren to go with him. The only problem is that Julie already has a dance partner so Glyn is forced to dance with Warren before finally getting to dance with the girl of her dreams and later convincing her to come to the anniversary party with him.

Meanwhile the rest of the boys are already in Manchester, where Hodge’s wife Kath is annoyed that he invited all of his friends to their anniversary dinner, but none of her friend’s got a look in. That is until her old bridesmaid Summer turns up; an obnoxious larger-than-life presence who is horrible to everyone and is especially rude to Julie when she and Glyn turn up. The lads have bigger problems though when they hit a drunken man with their car and wrongly believe that he needs to get a train back to London. It is only when they return to the hotel and see a crying bride do they realise that they’ve made a massive mistake, but is it too late to correct it and more importantly how will the women in their life react with them being gone so long?

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Personally, I think the best thing about Great Night Out is the four lead actors who all share great chemistry to the extent that you believe they have been friends for many years. Due to his dominating presence, Lee Boardman is the natural leader of the group and he is able to play his likeable role well despite being best known for playing villains. William Ash, best known for his role in Waterloo Road, is also perfectly cast as the hapless Beggsy who lives with his domineering mother and has a daughter who he sees very rarely. Stephen Walters, last seen in Good Cop, is great as Daz who often lies to get what he wants but realises what a good thing he has with Colleen so is seriously questioning going to Old Trafford with her. For me though it is Craig Parkinson who steals the show as the nervous Glyn, often the butt of his friends’ jokes, who brilliantly portrays a man who is still anxious to have a relationship with the girl who he has been in love with since school. Great Night Out also has also assembled a great supporting cast who inclue Rebekah Staton, Christine Bottomley, Susie Blake, Isy Suttie and Ricky Tomlinson who has some great one-liners as pub landlord Warren.

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The problem I had with the show was that I found the script uneven throughout, and it was as if writers Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni were trying too hard to make us laugh in this opening episode. Personally I found that the duo’s script was at its best when focusing on the relationship between the four central characters, and I found the banter between them fairly realistic. I have to say I also laughed several times towards the end of the episode at some of the broader scenes involving the escaped groom and the lads’ attempts to get him back to the hotel. Other scenes though were less successful, namely the salsa class which evoked no laughter due to the fact that the central joke was that Craig Parkinson and Ricky Tomlinson were two men who had to dance together! I also found the character of Summer to be too much of a comic caricature, and I can’t imagine Kath ever allowing her to be one of her bridesmaids. Talking of the female characters, I personally found them generally underwritten because, despite the best intentions of the actresses playing them, they were generally there just to react to what the men were doing.

Overall the first episode of Great Night Out did show some promise, thanks mainly to the chemistry between the lead actors and the believability of the banter they share. I think if the writers could tone down the broadly comic tones and give something extra for the female characters to do, then it would improve a lot more. But ultimately I feel that Friday nights on ITV would benefit from a likeable comedy drama such as Great Night Out, because at the end of the day, anything’s better than seeing Piers Morgan interview another C-List celebrity.

What did you think to Great Night Out? Did you think it was a good inclusion to ITV’s Friday night line-up? Leave Your Comments Below.