Thursday, 23 April 2009

Going out on a high

In a world where the TV sitcom had become all 'sit' and no 'com', it was gratifying to see that someone (the BBC, naturally) could still unearth a truly great exception. In Not Going Out, the Great British public were treated to a hilarious and brilliantly written show that packed more laughs into a half-hour than some comedies can muster in an entire series.

But Not Going Out will soon be no more. The BBC have, in their wisdom, decided to axe the programme claiming that the 'show had run its course of late' but myself and many others disagree. Such is the following of Not Going Out that an online petition has been created which has so far been signed by nearly 1,600 people.

So what is it that sets Not Going Out apart from other sitcoms? Well to a considerable extent, it's written by an exemplary stand-up comedian who happens to be the show's main star, Lee Mack. What he brings to the scripts is an eagerness to pack in as many jokes and funny lines as possible within the framework of the plot during every half hour story. That he actually achieves this so successfully while slowly building up your familiarity with each of the characters is nothing short of a minor miracle.

But Mack is not the only writer on the show. Andrew Collins and Peter Tilbury are also major contributors to the programme, helping to provide extra punch to some brilliantly funny dialogue. The humour can be found in many a snappy one-liner, in double entendres and in a raft of clever set pieces involving wonderful word play. Here's one example featuring two kids playing Trick or Treat at the flat of lead character Lee:

KID #2: Trick or treat!
LEE: Get off me doorstep - we're not in America.
KID #2: There's nothing wrong with adopting a bit of American culture.
LEE: Alright... get off me doorstep or I'll shoot ya.

...or another featuring a downright silly but nonetheless clever bit of schtik:

LEE: What are you doing looking in my wardrobe?
LUCY: That's none of your business
LEE: No no, that's NARNIA business...

...and they're just two of the funny snippets of dialogue that come at you machine-gun style during every episode. Looking around at the comments written by members of the public on TV forum sites, it's amazing to see how some people initially bemoaned the fact that there were too many jokes in each episode. Having now seen three superb series on BBC1, those same fans of the show must surely be relishing this all-too-rare attribute as something to behold.

For my money, Not Going Out looked like it may reach an early end when Mack's American co-star from series 1, Megan Dodds, was replaced by English actress Sally Bretton in series 2. Somehow Bretton's abrupt character Lucy didn't seem as endearing or cutesy as Dodds' Kate, yet by the end of series 3 my discontent had been mollified as the comedy continued to meet the high standards it had set previously.

All of which makes it such a shame to think Not Going Out won't be back for a fourth series. Though the BBC are yet to broadcast one last episode this Christmas, the apparent ease with which it's seen fit to pull the plug on the programme has left a bitter taste in the mouth of all those who enjoyed it.

And as many fans have already said on the web, there's still the hope that another channel will take up the baton and produce the show instead, but whether that happens remains a mystery. For the time being, I, along with millions of others will be keeping my fingers crossed that it does. Not Going Out is an absolute gem and deserves the chance to thrill audiences for many years to come.


P Shaw 23 April 2009 at 19:10  

I myself in recent times have thought that Not Going Out is the best sitcom of recent years and that is simply because of the two main stars Lee Mack and Tim Vine who are both stand-up comedians mainly. There are normally ten times the amount of jokes in one episode of NGO than there is in a whole series of other comedies. This leads to the fact that of one joke doesn't work, 20 more will be around the corner. If you miss the first 5 minutes of the program than you have already missed at least 10 jokes.

Chris O 25 April 2009 at 17:23  

Quite agree, P. It was a truly outstanding comedy which could have lasted a little longer yet, I feel.

linds 11 May 2009 at 23:12  

I agree with everything you have said. I adore Not Going Out and I'm gutted that the BBC axed it, especially when you think of the rest of the rubbish they churn out. They actually had something that was funny from start to finish. It was doing it's job.

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