The Job Lot Episode One Review: Russell Tovey and Jo Enright shine in this believable new sitcom

by Matt D

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In my review of Vicious, I noted how ITV are introducing a plethora of new comedy. While Vicious may be campy and old-fashioned, we have also been given the more contemporary The Job Lot. The Job Lot centres around a West Midlands Job Centre where the employees are almost as hopeless as their clients. Despite that premise not sounding exactly unique, there’s a likeability to The Job Lot that hasn’t been present in a lot of recent terrestrial sitcoms.

Our hero of sorts is Karl, a man who thought he would amount to much more than working in the job centre. Despite an art degree, Karl finds himself stuck in a dead-end job with people he absolutely hates. Karl’s day is filled up with asking pointless questions to jobseekers like shirtless Graham who only ends one pen. He also has to regularly argue with gobby Briony who only applies for jobs that she’s knows she’s not qualified. The only thing that keeps Karl going is his secret biscuit draw but that doesn’t seem like enough anymore so he decides to take drastic action. That action involves standing up on his desk and announcing to the assembled group that he’s leaving the Job Centre. However, just as he gets outside, he meets beautiful temp Chloe and decides to get back to work if only so he can be near her. Unfortunately he has left an unfortunate doodle up on the conference room whiteboard that now needs removing, which is an issue seeing as he used a permanent marker. Luckily he gets Briony’s help under the proviso that he lets her keep signing on. Although Karl finally removes the drawing, his bad day isn’t over as it transpires that co-worker Danielle is coming back early from maternity leave. This means that Chloe will be leaving almost instantly and his reason for returning to work will disappear. Events are made even worse when Chloe invites him out for a drink as it is revealed that Chloe already has a boyfriend. Instead of going off with Chloe, Karl is forced to go on meal with his boss Trish who is rewarding him for a job well done.

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Trish herself is having a tough day due to the fact that co-worker Angela has returned to work. Trish had previously sacked Angela, and it’s easy to see why, but the pair had been to a works tribunal where Angela won her job back. While Trish worries about who is going to take the ‘World of Work’ Seminar, Angela does her best to not help customers with their requests. This is more than evident when Sunil Mitesh approaches her to make an appointment about claiming benefits. Instead of helping him with his request, Angela asks him to make an appointment over the phone before presenting him with a mountain of forms. Just as Sunil is about to finish, Angela informs him it’s too late to start their meeting before presenting Sunil with more forms to fill in as she’s just discovered he’s got a family. Other characters in The Job Lot include security guards Jeanette and Paul both of whom love their job for different reasons. Jeanette sort of acts of the mother hen of the group and is often found tidying up after the cleaner has been the night before. Paul meanwhile loves using the free phones and photocopier rat wok in order to promote his carpet fitting business that he runs on the side.

I have to say I didn’t have particularly high expectations of The Job Lot especially after the first few minutes However, by the first break, I was completely won over by the show mainly due to the likeable central characters and the believability of some of the plots. For example I think we all know an Angela – somebody who won’t start work till nine on the dot but will leave whenever they feel like it. Karl is also a fairly relatable character in so much as he’s someone who is stuck in a job that he thinks he’s too good for. Though we’ve seen this character in many other sitcoms, Karl is different in that the job he hates his helping other people find work. Manager Trish represents another sitcom cliché namely the boss whose work is their life. But again Trish is undeniably likeable as she attempts to make the best of a bad situation. Claire Downes, Ian Jarvis & Stuart Lane have created a number of incredibly funny lines of dialogue and meshed them with a set of very believable characters.

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The fact that the ensemble cast are great at what they do also adds to the likeability of The Job Lot. Russell Tovey plays another world-weary everyman in The Job Lot albeit one who knows that his life is going nowhere. Tovey makes us instantly root for Karl and I was really hoping that he’d find love with the pretty Chloe. Miranda star Sarah Hadland also makes a good accounting of herself as the hapless Trish. Hadland turns Trish into a nervous manager who struggles with demanding targets and a bitter colleague. Personally though, I felt that Jo Enright stole the show as the troublesome and sinister Angela who seemed intent on doing no work at all. Enright really inhabited the role of this woman who’d realised she could never be sacked so had decided that she was now going to shirk all of her duties. In addition to these performances, there was brilliant support provided by Sophie McShera who was utterly realistic as job-seeker Briony. With her bad attitude and dodgy dress sense, Briony is a million miles away from McShera’s most famous creation – Downton Abbey’s Daisy.

Overall there is much to like about The Job Lot. The characters are well-crafted and believable while there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way. The performances from Tovey, Hadland and especially Enright are brilliant while the whole piece feels well-paced. It remains to be seen whether or not The Job Lot can maintain the momentum it has built up this week, but I’ll definitely be watching at least one more episode to see if future episodes are as good as this one. Though it’s far from perfect, I do feel that ITV have do have a hit sitcom on their hands in the form of The Job Lot.

What did you think to The Job Lot? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Leave Your Comments Below.