Show + tell: Paul Flynn’s top telly
Based on a Grazia column about life as a directionless 30-something, Sharon Horgan makes a brilliant return to our screens
WAY BACK IN 2009, Sharon Horgan sloped on to discerning screens with her venerated sitcom, Pulling. At the time, the tale of three dystopic flat-sharing friends failing at life, sex and money in London looked a bit like the anti- Sex And The City. Almost a decade later, it feels like a revolution. From Girls to Fleabag, through Horgan’s own Catastrophe and underrated Divorce, women being a bit rubbish have formed a pleasing new spine for meaningful comedy. Men have had failing anti-heroes to look and laugh at, marvelling at our own reflective rubbishness forever. This catch-up had to happen.
Women On The Verge is Horgan’s latest project, drawn from her familiarly spiky, doleful, sharp repertoire of unsatisfactory sex, drunken oversharing, lives frittered from one regret to the next. We meet three likeably awful friends, 30-something midlevel professionals in Dublin. Their openings are strong. Laura getting rogered by her boss in the disabled lav of a generic gastro pub. Katie being prepared for a sperm donation she doesn’t want. Alison resigned to taking back the boyfriend she dumped, having quantified a life lesson: ‘I realised that it’s perfectly normal to hate your partner and wish they were dead most of the time.’ As ever with Horgan, buried within the bleakness is only humour.
There is a baby question hanging over all three. Refreshingly, it’s never more than vague. Horgan’s speciality is for a kind of woman who knows the rules of successful living and acts as if they were written for everyone else. Her characters have the shrugshouldered resignation of not being invited to the right party. They feel wonderfully familiar, like seeing yourself in the back of a spoon. Bryony Gordon and Dolly Alderton do a great, posh version of them in their books, all wine spilled on laptops, laddered tights and walks of bleary-eyed shame.
The twist with Women On The Verge is the weak resolve in Laura (a truly excellent Kerry Condon) to do something about the chaos stacking against her, often of her own making. This is Horgan’s writing entering proper adulthood, accruing the melancholic wisdom of middle-age. Laura reaches out to a therapist, played by – but of course – Horgan, a storyteller every bit as important to the last decade as Steve Coogan was to the ’90s, Ricky Gervais the 00s. What a bloody brilliant woman. Begins Thursday 11 October, 9pm, W
Katie (Nina Sosanya) and Laura (Kerry Condon) feel comfortingly chaotic