I love me a bit of comedy, especially British comedy, because British people are funnier and better than you Yanks, nyah nyah. Still, BBC over the decades has delivered some of the greatest comedy shows to ever grace the airwaves; Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf, Only Fools and Horses… One of their more recent ones has been Lee Mack’s Not Going Out series.
Beginning in 2006, cancelled in 2009 and uncancelled in 2011, Not Going Out revolved around Lee (played by…well, Lee) living in a flat and trying to desperately to impress his landlady, the object of his affections – at first it was a woman named Kate (Megan Dodds), but then she got replaced with headhunter Lucy (Sally Bretton). The cast also included Lucy’s brother and Lee’s friend Tim (Tim Vine) and Tim’s dim girlfriend Daisy (Katy Wix). It was not the most original of sitcoms, in fact it was very by-the-numbers. Wacky guy, straight man, obligatory girl, another wacky character who is wacky in a different way. It’s the same set-up for bleeding Ctrl Alt Del, for fuck’s sake. Still, Not Going Out managed to have some brilliantly hilarious jokes- Lee and Tim know a thing or two about comedy, since they have done some wonderful stand-up.
Series Six of Not Going Out recently aired from April to May 2013, with Tim Vine, having been with the series from the start, leaving because he ‘fancied a change’. Thus, the very first episode of the sixth series began with Lee and Lucy talking about Tim being on a placement. There was no replacement character for Tim; the sixth series was about the adventures of Lee, Lucy and Daisy. Ah yes, Daisy seemed a bit more prominent than she did last series – she does manage to get a really good line here and there, but sadly, a lot of time, she can be really annoying. She’s more or less like those blonde bimbo stereotypes you see in stupid teen shows, or like Ajax from Duckman or Chris from Family Guy or something. She’s so irritatingly thick you wonder why Lee and Lucy have her do errands by herself. I guess it did mean more scenes with Lee and Lucy interacting, and I think they make a good duo, even if quite a bit of their dialogue is
LUCY: (something similar to what Lee said but twisted to make fun of Lee)
I have watched all eight episodes of Not Going Out’s sixth series, and now I’m just going to give some brief commentary on each of them.
In this episode, Lucy visits a client, runs over that client’s pet rabbit (the origin of Zombunny?) and now must find a way to make things right, leading to one calamity after another. This wasn’t really a strong way to start off the series – not really because of Tim’s absence, but rather because the jokes weren’t really that good. For example, in one scene Lee shows the client what he thinks is the dead pet rabbit, the client says ‘This is a wild thing’ and Lee replies ‘Does it make your heart sing?’ Sigh. The story is basically the characters attempting to solve a problem, but facing more obstacles and making mistakes along the way. This is a very good plotline for comedy – Fawlty Towers incorporated it well, with Basil’s sanity diminishing as the problem grew – but ‘Rabbit’ feels like a twenty minute plot given an extra ten minutes.
Some sitcoms, to save money, will often have an entire episode set in one room. A good example of this is a Psychoville episode revolving around the Sowerbutts, which brought us the ‘Superman dance’ and an appearance by League of Gentlemen member Mark Gatiss. ‘Skiing’ is set almost entirely in a ski lift that stopped when a bird got stuck in the gears, leaving Lee, Lucy, Daisy and a pregnant woman stranded. Also, said pregnant woman is ready to deliver, and Lee has to do the honours. This and ‘Rabbit’ were a poor way to start the series; ‘Skiing’’s pace is even more plodding than its predecessor, it’s constantly hitting the same notes over and over again – LOOK AT WHAT A DIPSHIT DAISY IS HA HA – and the pregnancy storyline was just awkward.
Lucy takes a night class in counselling, and ends up having to help Lee and his father patch things up. Lee’s father has been one of the more annoying characters of the show – though I’d take an hour with him over ten minutes with Daisy – but this is a marked improvement over the previous two episodes, mostly because Lee and Lucy’s interactions are much better. Lee gives his impersonation of a therapist, and Lucy calls him a ‘repressed Northern twat’ in return – the delivery is utterly perfect. Lee makes quips and jokes and insults to Lucy and his dad constantly, but it actually feels somewhat believable.
Speaking of parents, this episode features Lucy’s, who are more entertaining and perform much better than Lee’s dad – ‘She needs a rocket up her backside’ says Lucy’s dad of his daughter in his mellifluously low tone. Lucy goes off on a three-day business conference, where she tells people that she’s married, and Lee decides to go along as Lucy’s fake husband in order to stop Lucy flirting with the other men. This is actually a good example of a story where a problem escalates – Lee is awkward at the conference but in a good way. He starts off pretending to be Lucy’s husband, then goes through a “divorce”, and then ends up having to pretend to be Lucy’s father in a hilarious scene – ‘You were 17 when Lucy was born?’ ‘He’s from the North.’ Lucy’s real father, however, plays the perfect part in the finale.
This is a little bit of a step back, which is a shame because the storyline did show some promise. Lee tries to make Lucy jealous by dating another girl (Joanna Bobin), and that girl turns out to be a psychopath. This episode can really be summarised by the way it went about spoofing Fatal Attraction. There is a scene where Lucy’s cuddly toy hammer is shoved into a pot like the rabbit was shoved into a pot in the movie. Cute, and it’s actually funny to those who haven’t seen the film as it’s such a silly image. It would have been funnier though, if Lee hadn’t pointed out how similar Rachel was to Alex, and Lucy pointing out that Rachel boiling the hammer was indeed a reference to Fatal Attraction. I would use the ‘don’t explain the joke’ clip, but that would make me a hypocrite as this episode opens with a dumb Batman joke (there’s a rather cloying subplot where Daisy tries to decide which superhero to dress up as for a hen night). Really, if you want to see a BBC sitcom spoof a movie, Red Dwarf’s ‘Camille’ episode did a wonderful pastiche on Casablanca.
Before rewatching this, I had completely forgotten what happened in this episode, and thus I was almost tempted to pull a Blogger Beware and just have a Youtube video where a description would be. Really, it has some amusing jokes – Lee says to Lucy’s parents ‘If you’ve come to score some Ovaltine, our dealer’s let us down’ – but it is mostly forgettable. Lucy’s former boyfriend Scott Perry (Simon Farnaby) wants Lucy to star in a play where he plays the hero, she plays his love, and of course, Lee ends up playing the Snidely Whiplash-esque baddy. Daisy is a little more amusing than usual, with her probably having the funniest scene in the whole of Series 6: when she talks about “Bertie”. The play at the end isn’t as amusingly awkward as it should be though, and the fact that Scott looks like Napoleon Dynamite distracts me.
Is it wrong that I laughed when this episode used the phrase ‘transvestite clown’ just because that’s what Pennywise is? Anyway, what’s weird about this episode is that it starts in en media res when there really was no need to do so. Still, this is probably the best episode of the sixth series, really. Lucy is stuck planning a birthday party for her goddaughter, and Lee decides to do a magic act. It all seems to be going well, until he sends Daisy to pay the magic shop, she instead bets on a horse Lee was earlier interested in, and the magic shop owner repossesses all of Lee’s magic supplies, leading him to get trapped in a box. Seriously, why the fuck do they trust Daisy with anything? Woman should be sent to an institution or something. The magic shop owner is actually the best performance here, a good mixture of a kids’ movie wizard and a League of Gentlemen character. I think it does end a bit too tickety-boo – Lee’s horse wins and he has enough to pay off his debts to the magic shop and take the kiddies to JLS.
Not exactly the most spectacular end to the series. The last episode of the previous series was tonnes of fun, with Lucy and Lee striving hard to get back what they thought was a sex tape. It was a good note to end the series (and Tim) on. ‘Boat’? Not so much. Lee’s father returns and invites Lee, Lucy and Daisy to come on a boat with him. Turns out, Lee’s dad is planning to cast off, sink the boat, escape on a dinghy with Lee and co and collect the insurance money. When Lucy loses said dinghy, the episode basically turns into the ‘Boy Scoutz ‘n the Hood’ episode of The Simpsons, only not as funny. Wow, listen to me, saying a British comedy pales in comparison to an American one. You can see the jokes coming a mile off – Daisy says she can look up at the stars and tell what time it is. ‘Night-time.’ When she stars personifying the dinghy, you’re wondering if you switched to the wrong channel and you’re watching something on CBBC.
For all my complaints, I really do love this show. It’s mostly entertaining and has provided big belly laughs in the past. It’s just that there are better Britcoms, and throughout this series, it has paled in comparison to the other comedies airing on the same night – including Would I Lie To You, in which Lee is a team captain. Series 6 had its moments, but Series 5 was much stronger.