A sisterly sitcom pilot, driven more by narrative and characters than gags
There is a lovely start to The Other One (BBC2). Well, it’s not lovely for Colin Walcott, or really a start for him, more like an end, the end. It’s his birthday; his wife Tess and daughter Catherine are throwing him a surprise birthday party. Trouble is, the surprise party exposes the Big Lie that Colin has been harbouring. Not only is he cheating on his wife but he has a whole other family, a mistress and another daughter (also called Catherine Walcott, to avoid mixups). The shock of suddenly being so publicly found out is too much for poor Colin; he has a heart attack, and sadly dies. Surprise!
The end – of the show – is rather nice, too. Colin’s ashes are scattered, by his daughters, the Catherine Walcotts, in a layby. Not because it was a favourite layby, but because it’s exactly equidistant between where the Catherines live, and it was all they could agree on. Meanwhile, in the same layby by happy coincidence, Colin’s wife is having sex with a man she’s just met on the internet (Guardian Soulmates as it happens: it makes me proud to work where I do), in his car.
Well, trying to have sex, it’s not going that well. The Kia might have scored well on fuel efficiency on What Car but it’s rubbish for sex in the front. Plus Tess’s kaftan is in the way a bit, and she’s not really over Colin, to be honest, even if he was a lying, cheating, hypocritical bastard. He does finally get a better send-off: his ashes swept up off the layby (along with the odd fag butt), packed into a distress flare and fired into the Manchester night sky. Aww.
But this is not about Colin. It’s about Tess (Rebecca Front). And it’s about her love rival Marilyn (Siobhan Finneran). And it’s about the two Catherines, Cathy and Cat (Ellie White and Lauren Socha, respectively). It is these four women who fill the bit between the start and the end, and they do so very well. A lot of the humour comes from the social chasm between the half-sisters. Cathy is in reinsurance; she’s organised and prissy, and she has a dull fiance called Marcus (though that might be in jeopardy after he sent some inadvisable picture texts and it looks as though his penis is about to go viral, flapping about all over social media). Cat works at Deliveroo and isn’t with anyone at the moment. “Well, this summer I finally completed Tinder so I’m just taking a bit of a breather,” she tells her new sister. Finally completed Tinder! That’s a very good joke, isn’t it? Hats off Holly Walsh, who wrote it. And it seems Cat really has completed Tinder; she knows every minor male character on it, knows them very well.
Perhaps surprisingly, Cathy and
Cat do find common ground. Not just Bye bye layby … Ellie White, Rebecca Front and Lauren Socha
because they share genes and a dad, but also a love of Supertramp (even if that obviously came via him). Nothing bridges a social chasm quite like a good 70s guilty pleasure carpool karaoke singalong. “Like a king without a castle, like a queen without a throne, I’m an early morning lover, and I must be moving on” … Lovely – and so very different – from White and Socha. Though perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s Front who nicks the show from them. She wears the role like she wears that kaftan: exuberantly, with loads of colour and relish, and bursting out a little.
It’s good to see a comedy pilot that is more about character and narrative momentum than it is about gags. And one that doesn’t come with laughter included; you get to decide yourself whether to or not, almost like you’re an adult. I am not convinced the premise screams sixepisode series, but I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.
My Hotter Half (E4) looks as though it totally fulfils the Channel 4 remit. Melvin Odoom, presenting, even says “think of it as a public service”. Couple Charlotte and Darren both think they’re better looking than the other. Darren is certainly buff. “Someone call a vet cos those swans are sick, bro,” says Melvin. About his biceps, obviously. (I know what it means as I get it quite a lot, too. Maybe I’ll go on with my girlfriend, just so she knows she’s punching too.) They take selfies and the public get to decide who is right. I think it can claim innovation, and maybe diversity. Plus it will inspire debate among viewers: she’s hotter, no way, he’s hotter …
She’s hotter! Charlotte. Well, well. Wait, though: there’s a further thrilling twist. Darren gets a style makeover, and then he’s voted hotter! Don’t you dare go telling me that’s not important.