Just as George Cole shuffles off our screens in An Independent Man, he's back
in this new (well, newish it was made in 1997) sitcom about father-son
relationships. From the jaunty opening credits set to Herb Alpert's Tijuana
Taxi, this is a light and bubbly effort that doesn't quite make the grade. Alan
Hook (Kevin McNally, whom we saw not that long ago playing a right nutter in
Underworld), is an anxious fortysomething with a loving wife (Julia Hills), a
sulky 18-year-old son and annoying father (Cole), from whom he's been estranged
for several years. There's potential in the set-up but unfortunately it's just
not very well realised. Although the chemistry between McNally and Hills is spot
on, Cole's character is not as annoying as you'd hope and many of the jokes
fall surprisingly flat.
A bit of trivia: McNally used to write scripts for Minder, the show for which
Cole is still best remembered.
The King of Queens
Another difficult-dad sitcom, this time from America. Lardarse Doug (Kevin
James) is married to sassy Carrie (Leah Remini), whose father, Arthur (Jerry
Stiller Ben's real-life dad and George Costanza's fictional one in Seinfeld),
lives in the basement and makes their lives misery. Tonight the three of them go
to the wedding of one of Carrie's old friends, Todd. The thing is, Carrie has
neglected to tell Doug she once slept with Todd. Doug finds out, of course, and
his rampant insecurity leads to some reasonably amusing moments. Meanwhile,
Frank rues his decision to choose the steak over the fish and spends the entire
wedding trying to rectify matters. Stiller seems to be enjoying himself
enormously here, but his role seems strangely inessential. It's as though his
cranky, obsessive Frank Costanza routine is taking place in a parallel dramatic
universe, barely intersecting with the rest of the plot.
Home and Away
When we left Summer Bay at the end of last year Ailsa Stewart (Judy Nunn) was
heading for the kitchen floor, clutching her chest and messing up the dishes.
Now, at the beginning of season 14, we join the gang at Ailsa's funeral, kicking
the year off on a sombre note. And so we get to see the entire cast do some
serious emoting for the first 20 minutes of the episode. The old tear ducts get
a real workout and one can only imagine how many onions were sacrificed in the
pursuit of dramatic authenticity.
Meanwhile, Leah thinks Vinnie is about to propose but he's freaked out that
she's talking kids. Vinnie doesn't know how to tell her he's ``lacking in the
wedding tackle department", which I assume means he's sterile. I can't imagine
any self-respecting surfer boy admitting to being underendowed.
All in all it's a pretty downbeat start to the year.
By contrast, when our other enduring sitcom kicks off its 17th season it's
just another sunny day in suburbia. Ramsay Street is gripped by a heatwave, so
here we get to see the entire cast sweat and fan themselves with beer mats and
flyers (the extras really go for it, tossing hair, waving their hands and
chanting rhubarb with almost comic gusto).
This venerable soapie seems a bit lighter on the spunk factor than Home and
Away and a bit more downmarket, but really there's not much between them.
They're Aussie soaps, bubblegum TV. To give either of them a thumbs down just
wouldn't seem right.
Here we are again in New York's gloomiest police station. Has there ever been
such a miserable bunch of TV cops? Tonight they all seem to be trying to outdo
each other in the my-life-is-a-mess-and-my-childhood-was-a-disaster department.
It looks as though Danny Sorenson's been taking Mr Grumpy lessons from Andy
Sipowicz as he tries to rehabilitate a hopeless junkie, with predictable
results. Sipowicz, for his part, spends the entire episode sitting behind his
desk in his trademark too-tight short-sleeved shirt saying the wrong thing while
other officers deal with murder, child neglect and various workplace
This is a well-written, well-acted police drama, but it could probably do
with a little more light and a little less shade.