Great Night Out, ITV1 | TV reviews, news & interviews
Great Night Out, ITV1
Stock characters in northern comedy drama fail to charm
Judging by those associated with Great Night Out, it looked like ITV had found the successor to acclaimed thirtysomething drama Cold Feet. It has the same production team behind The Worst Week of My Life - one of the funniest programmes in BBC Comedy's recent output - additional material by playwright Jonathan Harvey, who is responsible for some punchily witty scripts in Coronation Street, and a cast of talented actors.
Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni's series is about four blokes, friends since childhood, who go to footie together and meet once a week for a lads' night out. Hodge (Lee Boardman), permatanned and a snazzy dresser, thinks he's the leader of the group and is married to Kath (Rebekah Staton, pictured below); Daz (Stephen Walters) is a commitment-phobe cynic in an on-off relationship with Colleen; Beggsy (William Ash) is a nice-bloke dreamer, whose ex-wife has moved to Australia with their daughter; and Glyn is a bit of a misfit all round, who pines after Julie, a girl they knew at school.
Some of the comedy is toe-curlingly lame
The lads constantly get themselves into scrapes, and the opening episode (of six) centred on Hodge and Kath's fifth wedding anniversary. The planned get-together of groomsmen and bridesmaids soon fell apart, as we learned Hodge had sent out the wrong date in the email. As Kath waited in the hotel bar with Colleen (Naomi Bentley) for the men to park the car, they got themselves into trouble as they helped a drunk man on to a train to London. It turned out, however, he was the nervous groom running away from his wedding at the hotel, and they, after much frantic running to catch the right train, getting on and off the same train, persuading the train guard to make an unscheduled stop at Macclesfield, then changing their minds, etc etc, found themselves bound for London on a non-stopper. Happens all the time.
Another storyline was being played out across town as Glyn (Craig Parkinson) finally plucked up courage to make contact with Julie (Christine Bottomley) and he turned up at her salsa class with their local pub landlord Ricky Tomlinson in tow. Cue two men who had to dance together. Oh my sides.
You can see Great Night Out's creators spent little time in creating anything other than stock characters, and it's all so irritatingly old-fashioned. The lads are football-obsessed (the streets around Stockport County's ground play a starring role) and hopeless in relationships; the women, however, are sassy and sorted and drink gallons of white wine.
Some of the comedy is toe-curlingly lame. One of the women couldn't pronounce the word “chardonnay” when she was drinking in a posh hotel bar (really? really?), there was not one but two outrageously camp men (the dance teacher and the train guard) flouncing all over the place and the script had sudden outbreaks of t'northernness. “Oh it were anarchy. It were like the riots all over again,” said Beggsy's mother about the goujons being moved to a different aisle at Morrissons. Peter Kay, eat your heart out.
Great Night Out strikes me as the TV equivalent of Viva Forever!, where producers use the template of one great show - in that case Mamma Mia! - and apply it to another in the hope that the magic will work again. But whereas The Worst Week of My Life had an internal logic to it, however bizarre or outlandish the situations its lead Ben Miller found himself in, Great Night Out's farce is scarcely believable, and I found myself counting the ways in which the opening-episode scenario simply couldn't have worked within its time-frame, which is never a good sign.
Not even the occasional funny line to please anybody who knows north-west England's local rivalries - Macclesfield was neatly dissed and the group booed when passing a "Welcome to Manchester" sign - and some spirited acting can lift this from being a disappointing hour of paint-by-numbers TV.
- Great Night Out continues on ITV1 on Fridays
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