So we’ve almost left the Christmas period behind and we’ve almost finished all of the shows that have a Christmas theme. As we look towards the New Year the schedules were primed for a programme that focused on the awkward nature of a New Year’s Eve Party. Luckily the BBC have noticed this gap in the market and have commissioned a one-off comedy that focuses on a group of Scottish neighbours celebrating Hogmanay. Originally a radio play set in Belfast, Two Doors Down features a group of recognisable stars and puts them together in a social situation that will be more than familiar to some.
The party is hosted by Eric and Beth, whose turn it is to host their street’s annual New Year’s festivities. Joining them first is their son Ian who has arrived fresh back from New York with his partner Tony in tow. It seems clear that Eric is still uncomfortable with his son’s sexuality and constantly introduces Tony as Ian’s friend. The quartet are soon joined by Beth’s uncontrollable sister Caroline who spends the majority of the night getting incredibly drunk. Beth’s attempts for the night to go well are thwarted early on when Eric realises he’s left the crisps at the supermarket and has failed to put the gazebo up. Eric’s efforts at the gazebo are quickly put to shame when Tony gets it looking right with just one small pull. Eric and Beth’s neighbours Cathy and Colin are next to arrive bringing with them plenty of expensive accessories and a small bottle of mulled wine. Cathy and Colin are awful snobs and can’t help talking about their foreign holidays and extravagant purchases. Cathy later reveals to Beth that she and Colin are going to be moving to a more affluent area as she considers their current street to be below her social status.
Meanwhile, next door, teenager Sophie is enjoying the perks of having the family house to herself and has invited her friend Ashley to join her in sharing a bottle of wine. Sophie is then horrified when she sees that Ashley has brought two boys with her that she’d just met on the bus. The two lads threaten to leave unless they get more alcohol so Ashley suggests that the four of them go round to the neighbours’ house in order to steal their lager. Once at the house, the teenagers quickly become part of the party with Colin attempting to act like one of the boys. The final guests to the house are the couple’s Norwegian neighbours Henning and Nina, who themselves have several New Year’s customs to uphold. Nina is heavily pregnant and appears not to be looking forward to the fact that her baby will be born in Scotland. Though Henning is a lot more sociable than his wife, he too is bemused by the pastry-heavy diet that is inflicted on him in Scotland. In attempt to fit in with his neighbours, Henning ends up getting drunk and soon finds himself in a sticky situation. Beth finally has enough when her guests suggest that she cooks up the steak pie that she’s saving for her traditional New Year’s Day dinner. As recriminations fly and revelations are made, it appears as if none of the guests will have a Happy New Year.
Sometimes a TV programme can surprise you, especially if you know little about it all. Two Doors Down was definitely one of those shows and I was shocked at how many times I laughed throughout the course of the hour. Though you could tell it was originally conceived as a radio play, Simon Carlyle’s script was incredibly funny nonetheless. There were plenty of off the cuff gags that came out of nowhere while the social situation that the central couple found themselves in was instantly recognisable. Though the majority of the characters, especially Cathy and Colin, were fairly broadly drawn they at least felt like real people. I loved all the little jokes from Cathy’s constant attempts to outdo Beth to the constant mispronunciation of Henning’s name. For a comedy that originated on the radio, I was surprised how many visual gags were included in the piece. One particular highlight was a set piece involving Caroline which made me laugh out loud. Of all the subplots, the only one that I found a little unnecessary was the one involving the teenagers as I felt it added little to the overall comedy.
In addition to Carlyle’s script, the ensemble cast did their best to make the material as funny as possible. Arabella Weir and Alex Norton were brilliant as the central couple and portrayed a couple of down-to-Earth people who were forced to host a nightmarish party. Norton was particularly great at playing Eric’s discomfort of having to make small talk with Tony and it was interesting to see the progression of the story between he and Ian. Meanwhile Weir excelled at making her character the most normal of the bunch and was adept at anchoring the entire story. I personally felt the best performance came from Greg McHugh as the cautious Tony, who eventually got more boisterous during the evening. McHugh’s portrayal of Tony was a million miles away from the character he’s best known for playing, Howard in Fresh Meat. Meanwhile Doon Mackichan played to her strengths as the obnoxious and passive aggressive Cathy who was unable to get the last laugh. One of the negatives of Two Doors Down is the way it wastes the talented Sharon Rooney. Anybody who saw My Mad Fat Diary knows how much of a talent Rooney is and I felt she could’ve been given a lot more to do as the teenage Sophie.
Overall, there was much to like about Two Doors Down which turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire festive period. The script was well-paced, packed full of great jokes and well-observed awkward situations. Though not all of the stories were engaging as they possibly should’ve been, the cast did their best to make the show as entertaining as possible. While I might not remember it in a few months’ time, Two Doors Down was at least entertaining when I was watching it and sometimes that’s all you need.
Did you enjoy Two Doors Down? Did you find it as funny as I did?
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