Aidan Smith's TV week: Two Doors Down (BBC2), And Just Like That ... (Sky Comedy), Ragdoll (Alibi), Landscapers (Sky Atlantic)
I’m screaming at the TV: “Chuck them out! Her with her leather crop-pants and her vaper and her viciousness! Him with his goatee and his oneupmanship and his wee cuckoldy soor ploom gurn! Just get rid!”
But Colin (Jonathan Watson) and Cathy (Doon Mackichan) are never removed from the home of their neighbours Eric (Alex Norton) and Beth (Arabella Weir) despite rarely being invited, always being rude and invariably starting an unholy row. That is the point of Two Doors Down (BBC2). I’m not saying it’s a one-joke sitcom but it’s managed to get to a fifth season on this premise, and the new run begins in corking fashion.
Cork being the operative word. Christine (Elaine C. Smith) is recommended one as a plug, having invaded Eric and Beth’s curry night despite her bowel issues. “Absolutely shootin’ oot o’ me, so it is,” she explains.
And Colin pops the cork on a bottle of champagne, a decent gesture for him towards Ian and Gordon’s anniversary even though he and Cathy have also gatecrashed, intrigued by the spicy aromas. “Makes a change from the smell of your washing,” he tells Beth. “Stuff draped over the radiators, tights and all.”
Eric and Beth are heroic neighbours, believers in community, an insanely optimistic couple who want the whole world to be nice and get along - but if you’re being harsh they’re also doormat and drudge. Our wee hearts flutter when Colin invites Eric down the pub to watch the football, or when Cathy managed to restrain herself from saying something horrible about Eric’s fat tummy and its ability to act as a ledge for his beer or Beth’s dreary clothes next to her collection of mock-ocelot mini-skirts (at least I hope they’re mock). But the pleasant vibe never lasts.
Eric and Beth keep coming back for more and we keep coming back for more, because Two Doors Down is brilliantly performed and scripted, by Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp. The best Scottish comedy since I don’t know when (sorry, Scot Squad, sorry Burnistoun).
Ian had turned up with a black eye and a bashed face. “A homophobic attack?” wonders Colin. “See, this is the trouble with these tight jeans.” In fact, Ian and Gordon had gone to the aid of some harassed girls. But why hadn’t Gordon gone to Ian’s aid? In the city that invented the headbutt, Colin deems this unforgivable. “I was scared,” says Gordon, to much scoffing. But, just when you think Colin and Cathy have enjoyed another night of free dinner and casual abuse, there’s a great punchline at the end (with the emphasis on punch).
There’s a terrible punchline at the end of the first episode of And Just Like That … (Sky Comedy), the Sex and the City revival. Should I tell you? Ach you must know already: Big dies. There he was just moments before reading an old-school newspaper. And, working through his vinyl, reaching R and playing Todd Rundgren. Now there will be no S for Santana, Steely Dan and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band!
Worse, possibly, there’s no Samantha, Kim Cattrall’s absence seemingly explained truthfully, as she and Sarah Jessica Parker were not besties. Denied Sam’s pure and utter filth, this is a surprisingly solid return with the remaining three coming to terms with their fifties, grey hair, a shifting sexual landscape threatening voice-of-a-generation Carrie with now being dubbed the “uptight cisgender female married lady” - and death.
Anyone still watch Killing Eve? There’s a show which jumped the shark. And funnily enough the new crime drama “from the makers of … ” gets me thinking about sharks, in particular the one Damien Hirst preserved in formaldehyde, because the murder victim suspended from wires in a London high-rise at the start of Ragdoll (Alibi) seems to have been arranged at the same jaunty angle.
Except it’s not one murder victim but six, their body parts stitched together to form a Frankenstein’s monster of a corpse. A tricky case requiring a detective on top of his game, yes? No, let’s send for DS Nathan Rose (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), whose life is a mess, whose flat is a mess with the most prominent item being a cardboard box labelled “Crap”, and who recently leapt into the courtroom dock during a murder trial to commit GBH on the accused.
Better team him up with a good man, then. Better still, a good woman. Better still, two good women. Well, one played by Thalissa Teixeira who’s smart and funny and another (Lucy Hale) who’s an annoying American. Oh and Phil Davis is London’s mayor, not so loosely based on one B. Johnson, who spontaneously combusts. This is a talky, jokey, sometimes mumbly show and everyone looks a bit sleazy but it’s got something.
Eric and Beth from Two Doors Down would be TV’s sweetest couple of the week, but for Susan and Christopher Edwards in Landscapers (Sky Atlantic). Played by Olivia Colman and David Thewlis, they seem hard-up but happy in France, losing themselves in old movies like High Noon. But their big showdown is coming following the discovery of the bodies of Susan’s parents, buried in a suburban garden back in Mansfield. A true story lent a weirdly comic air, much of it down to the Keystone Cops vaguely on their trail. Daniel Rigby has already won a Bafta for playing Eric Morecambe. He deserves another for Best Detective in a Swearing and Coffee-Hurling Role.
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