When I said in the Set The Video post for this that it could be good, I’ve got to admit that that was perhaps said more in hope than expectation. It’s not because I doubt the talent of the writer Richard Herring at all – his stand-up, previous TV shows and daily blog all prove that – it’s just that I exactly wasn’t sure how that talent would be transferred to a low-key comedy drama.
But you know, I think he did it. You Can Choose Your Friends wasn’t a masterpiece, maybe, but it’s portrayal of the whole gamut of family life was wittily, accurately and often painfully observed. Importantly, you recognised every single one of the twelve characters in the show.
At the head of family are Ken and Margaret, who are celebrating their wedding anniversary, hence the mass family gathering. Ken’s embarrassing but entertaining; Margaret’s fussy but warm. Then there’s the children, who may all be 39 or older, but instantly regress into their family roles as soon as they step through the door of the house they grew up in, as do we all.
The eldest is Simon, who slept with his secretary, and is now experiencing the bubbling wrath of his wife, and the worrying silence of his studious daughter. The middle child, Jane, has a Simpsons style family. They may all be at each other’s throats the whole time, but it’s only because they feel so comfortable, so safe. There are no awkward pauses in conversation, as in Simon’s household, just the general hubbub of a perfectly functioning family where the mum can take a shower while the dad goes to the loo. And then there’s Ian. He’s funny, charms all the younger members of the family, and has never grown up. It’s hard to tell whether he’ll ever commit to his latest girlfriend, whether she is in fact The One, and if she is, whether she feels the same way. I think we’re meant to think he’s lost, but Herring makes him a bit *too* likable to think he’ll ever struggle in life. You might say these characters had a touch of cliche about them, but I reckon it’s only cliche because it’s true.
It may not have been massively substantial, and I personally would have liked a few more laughs, but ultimately praise for this programme really does have to go to Herring for the dialogue. Not a single character uttered a word that felt wrong – and he was putting words into the mouths of three generations. From the 90 minutes you spent with these people, you felt you knew a hell of a lot about them, and that’s very impressive. [annawaits]Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip