Love Life with Rob James-Collier on ITV – episode one review

Giving to a title to a TV show can sometimes be a risky business especially if it gives you expectations about what the programme is going to be like and in the case of Love Life I was expecting a full on Richard Curtis style romcom. This impression continued throughout the first scene as Downton Abbey’s Rob James-Collier made his way through an airport, accompanied by some music which wouldn’t be out of place in one of the Bridget Jones films.

James-Collier stars as Joe, a jack-the-lad who seemingly met the perfect girl in Lucy, However when she started talking about babies and buying him books full of puddings he decided to climb Everest rather than getting hitched. Returning to his stereotypically quaint Northern town he runs into Lucy who is now eight months pregnant however she isn’t telling anybody who the father is. After about ten minutes of thinking that she’s told everyone else, Joe figures it out for himself and confronts the unaware baby daddy. I have to say this did beggar the question why didn’t her friends or father do this when she first announced the pregnancy? Throughout the programme Joe and Lucy go from arguing with each other to almost getting back together as through flashbacks we see how they met and how his selfishness led to their split.

Love Life also focuses on a second couple Dominic and Penny, played by Alexander Armstrong and Sophie Thompson, a more mature pair who are having trouble conceiving. While he is trying to show her that adoption is the most logical step – though perhaps giving her a brochure as a Christmas gift wasn’t the wisest move – she is relying on psychics and palm readers to tell her there is still hope.

For me Dominic and Penny’s story is much more compelling, thanks to the performances of Armstrong and Thompson. To me they feel like a real couple with the big issue of not being able to have a child hanging over them. It leads him to bury himself into his work and her to take up various hobbies. In what was easily Love Life’s most poignant scene, Penny enters a baby boutique, lies that she is expecting and then runs out and looks at herself in a mirror. These are the people having real troubles and so are much more compelling than our central couple.

That is mainly because Joe and Lucy are hard to like and connect to as they are both self-involved and on the whole uncaring. Returning from Everest, Joe has no problem stealing his nephew’s bed and is able to get a job just by asking his brother… presumably costing someone on Jobseekers the opportunity to break into the wonderful world of scaffolding.

Meanwhile Lucy doesn’t real seem fazed by the fact that she is about to have a baby without having a job or a partner to help out and treats the whole pregnancy as a way to taunt Joe. The only time she gets a little upset is she finds out that her gambling addict father, played by Gregor Fisher in full Rab C Nesbitt mode, has failed to pay the rent and she end up homeless. It is hard to feel sympathy for these two characters and the forced banter in the screenplay doesn’t make things any easier, for example when Joe sees the pregnant Lucy for the first time he says she looks different and she replies ‘I have had my hair cut,’ hilarious!

So does Love Life’s title do it justice? It certainly doesn’t match up to the ultimate TV romantic comedy drama Cold Feet but that would be a hard task to pull off. At the same time it doesn’t feel like an attempt to recreate it either. There certainly is an attempt to construct a punchy romantic story here and the plot is strong enough plus there’s no faulting Rob James-Collier or female lead Andrea Lowe.

The main problem with Love Life, for me personally at least, is that both Joe and Lucy are fairly one-note characters and I never fully believed their situation. I would honestly have preferred this to be a drama about Dominic and Penny with Joe and Lucy featuring as supporting players in the story rather than the other way around. I’m not saying the show doesn’t have promise but it’s fairly easy to work out where things are going to end up, unless the writers throw a curve ball and Joe and Lucy kill each other in episode two. Love Life does indeed show two couples who were or are in love but I’m not sure how much it does depicts real everyday life.