Thursday, February 01, 2007
Sex, sun and alliteration
INSANE! Bonkers, ITV1, 9.00pm
IN SPAIN! Benidorm, ITV1, 10.00pm
ITV1 surprise us all tonight with NOT ONE! (one would be quite enough, thank you) but TWO! brand new comedy-laced primetime entertainment offerings, both with strong enough casts that you have to wonder whether the people involved knew they were destined to be part of an "ITV comedy" before they'd committed to the project.
First up is Sally Wainwright's new series Bonkers. After the devastating examination of fractured family relationships that was At Home With The Braithwaites, her strikingly realistic portrayal of life behind-the-scenes at Downing Street in The Amazing Mrs Pritchard and Jane Hall's gritty look at the lives of a group of hedonistic young career bus drivers, it comes as something of a surprise that her latest drama has been trailed as a frothy, chaotic affair with lots of cheerfully flawed but capable women dealing with the messes that their hapless menfolk have created while also struggling with the complex issues of Being A Woman, Having Arguments But Always Being In The Right and Living In A House, Sometimes With Ungrateful Children.
Having already projected the same basic characters onto the topical big white screens of The Family, The Government and The Buses, here Ms W turns her attention to The Sex. This time, Liza Tarbuck's Mrs Everywoman and Mark Addy's Mr Her Useless Husband face marital meltdown while their extended family and neighbours just generally cock about and make things much more difficult for themselves than they need to be. On the plus side, some interesting nonsense involving a comatose film star appearing in Tarby's house sounds more than a little Life On Mars, so Wainwright clearly recognises original television even if she's in danger of forgetting how to write it herself. Also featuring Oliver "Green Wing" Chris and Lynda "No I fucking well don't just appear in ITV programmes, I was in Holby City last year, you know" Bellingham among a cast of quite literally about a dozen.
Bonkers is followed by Benidorm, written by Derren Litten from The Catherine Tate Show and featuring a recognisable ensemble cast of types, characters and people grappling with the perceived general unpleasantness of a continental package holiday and each other. Our gut instinct is to get the fuck away from this one as quickly as possible, but we're tempted by the prospect of Janine Duvitski as a middle-aged swinger, we like Nicholas Burns more and more every time we see him, and we've no doubt at all that Steve Pemberton is the best actor in The League Of Gentlemen (especially at playing himself). But it would be nice, just once, to see Johnny Vegas cast in a role that requires him to have a wash, wear a smart suit and stride about looking dynamic. (Sally Wainwright, here's your new PM!) While we sit on the fence (at least until we've actually seen the whole thing), take a package holiday (sorry) to the authentically tacky Solana Apartments website, slap on a bit of sunblock (we're sticking with this) and decide for yourself.