The drama is mere seconds old when James McAvoy tells Sharon Horgan: “The only thing that makes life remotely bearable is leaving this house. Saying goodbye to you is the best part of my day.”
Then he turns to the camera: “I hate her face.” Horgan retaliates: “I actually think of him as a cancer. Not skin or testicle but a really bad one, liver or pancreatic.”
Blimey. For a moment you wonder if this is some kind of game as they unpack the weekly shop in their Farrow & Balled kitchen while ten-year-old son Arthur plays in the garden. That’s it, a perverse prelude to sex: indulging in a bout of casual abuse before ripping off each other’s Boden weekend-wear. No, they actually can’t stand each other. And now, with lockdown having begun, they’re trapped. No one, in the words of the song, will be “taking a Jumbo across the water” any time soon.
Written by Dennis Kelly, Together is funny, sad, excruciating, excoriating (about the political as well as the personal) and will have many squirming with self-recognition. Maybe it never quite got as bad as this in your house but, day after day, boxset after boxset, bottle of wine after bottle of wine, you will have not have counted to ten, you will not have paced the garden (possibly on account of not having one) and you will have said something to your other half that you instantly regretted. I think I might have done.
Our couple - they aren’t given names - should never have got together. “Opposites do attract,” sighs Horgan, “but what if it’s serial killer/victim?” They’re different politically. McAvoy is a self-made man who Horgan accuses of over-dramatising his difficult beginnings: “You’re from Kilmarnock, not Compton.” He’s always been a Tory, she says. No, he counters, he voted for Tony Blair. She guffaws at that.
Viewer sympathies chop and change. You think she’s being dismissive of his job - “A boutique consultancy specialising in data analytics and finding technological multi-media solutions … ” - while she works for a charity. Then he admits to abusing a supermarket worker who wouldn’t sell him aubergines: “This is the reason you haven’t got an E-Class Benz like me.”
He makes fun of lockdown boasting by others - “I’m learning to play the banjo! Look at me: I’ve made a macrame scarf out of pasta twirls!” - but is soon growing his own veg. Her mother is moved into a care home and, well, you can probably guess what happens next. “Mum didn’t die, she was killed,” says a furious Horgan. “By stupidity and dumyf***ery.”
Then, surprising themselves, they resume relations. He says: “It’s not tantric sex, like Paul Weller” (Sting, surely). She says: “Both of us happen to be able to get where we’re going, with alacrity.” Then he says: “Why the f*** don’t we f*****’ well get married then?” Her: “Was that a proposal?” Him: “It wasn’t Keats, I’ll give you that.”
There’s more ebb and flow: a confession from Horgan about what really happened on that mushroom-picking weekend in the New Forest; McAvoy back in the supermarket attempting to expunge his guilt, then telling Horgan: “I may hate you sometimes but you despise me.” Finally, some kind of rapprochement. Both stars are brilliant and you should definitely watch Together, even though it will almost certainly hurt.
After the lockdown success of Schitt’s Creek, Netflix are pushing more Canadian comedies. Workin’ Moms begins its fifth season with the same set-up of a townie family-of-four moving to the sticks although in this case it’s not enforced.
We’re in Cochrane in Alberta where a ruder version of the name has been graffitied on the welcome sign. The mom, psychiatrist Anne, doesn’t know what’s more unnerving - the strangulated expressions of the stuffed animals in their rented accommodation or the strangulated expressions of the other moms at the schoolgates (they’re quite Stepford Wives). Her new friends meet her old ones when the latter fly in from Toronto to offer moral support and a fight breaks out.
Hubby Lionel is settling in better as his office is “a bit of a bad boys’ club: some of the guys are talking about bringing in tacos on … guess what? Not Tuesdays - Thursdays!”
Unfortunately that’s as good as the jokes in the opener get. Much better is Feel Good, the semi-autobiographical exploits of Canadian comedian Mae Martin, which began life on Channel 4 and has been picked up for its second season by Netflix.
The first run, Manchester-set, ended with the break-up of the romance between stand-up Mae and repressed English rose George (Charlotte Ritchie). In the second, George is confused. For one thing, this was her first all-girl relationship. For another, there’s the poem Mae left behind eulogising her elbows, prompting the response: “But they’re rank!”
Maybe she should have written a poem back, eulogising Mae’s Jean Seberg haircut, for the latter is now back in Canada. First she escapes rehab, then the harsh rules of her parents’ house (mum: Lisa Kudrow). She gets up on stage again but suffers a panic attack. Canadians are funny but nothing beats Schitt’s Creek.