Damien Love’s TV high­lights plus seven-day pro­gramme guide

THE UK’S BEST TV CRITIC DAMIEN LOVE RAMPAGES HIS WAY THROUGH THE WEEK IN TELE­VI­SION

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Contents -

HIGH­LIGHT OF THE WEEK

Hang Ups

Wed­nes­day

10pm, Chan­nel 4

SPORT­ING he­roes get all the plau­dits for sweat and de­ter­mi­na­tion, but if there is one per­son in the UK who re­ally de­serves to be held up as an in­spi­ra­tion to the rest of us just for en­ergy, hard work, per­se­ver­ance and putting the hours in, it is surely Stephen Man­gan.

His lat­est sit­com, Hang Ups, is the third en­tirely new se­ries

Man­gan has ap­peared in since the turn of the year, fol­low­ing the BBC’s hor­ren­dously bad drama, The

Split, and Sky’s im­pres­sively un­mem­o­rable weep­ing bigamist romp, Bliss. Add in that Man­gan also did his thank­less duty ear­lier this year in the fifth se­ries of the life-sap­ping Episodes, and that works out at him launch­ing a whole new multi-part show once ev­ery two months – although I’m plagued by the feel­ing that he might ac­tu­ally have done a cou­ple more I’ve for­got­ten about.

Thing is, I – along with, ap­par­ently, many of the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for com­mis­sion­ing new TV pro­duc­tions in Bri­tain – quite like Stephen Man­gan. And I would cer­tainly never grudge any­one tak­ing any paid work they can get their hands on. Still, there comes a time when you have to won­der: is a strat­egy of continuing to throw

Man­gan at the wall to see if any of it sticks re­ally the best way to go about things?

In com­mon with the other Man­ganese out­ings of these past eight months, Hang Ups isn’t all that good, although con­nois­seurs of the boun­ti­ful 2018 Man­gan har­vest might ap­pre­ci­ate the way the show subtly calls back to themes fa­mil­iar from the ear­lier pieces, as if the whole thing were one vast, un­fold­ing sym­phony. For sev­eral con­fus­ing mo­ments, watch­ing the open­ing scenes of Man­gan run­ning around a house as a ha­rassed and hap­less fa­ther out­classed by his wise wife and sassy/sulky teenage kids, I was con­vinced I’d started watch­ing Bliss again by mis­take, be­cause it opened ex­actly the same way. Un­less I’m think­ing of The Split.

In fact, though, the ear­lier show Hang Ups most re­sem­bles is Web Ther­apy, the com­edy about a ther­a­pist treat­ing pa­tients on­line that Lisa Kudrow made around 10 years ago, when we­b­cams were still al­most new enough to nearly get away with hang­ing a tired gim­mick on. A loose re­make, Hang Ups takes the out­line of Kudrow’s se­ries, but changes the tone and con­tent to make it more Man­gan­able. Viewed en­tirely via we­b­cams and mo­bile phone screens, Man­gan plays Richard, the luckless ther­a­pist, with a host of guest stars pop­ping up as his clients, with each re­mote ap­point­ment play­ing out like a splitscreen sketch.

There are ex­cel­lent peo­ple: Richard’s cor­re­spon­dents in­clude David Ten­nant, David Bradley and, play­ing Richard’s fa­ther, Charles Dance. But, mostly, the ther­apy skits are strained, tend­ing to in­volve the pa­tients stretch­ing out one un­der­writ­ten gag un­til it ex­pires, while Man­gan – given no other op­tion due to the claus­tro­pho­bic we­b­cam film­ing shtick – makes mild faces in re­sponse. (Worst offender in the first episode is Sarah Had­land as a woman who swears un­con­vinc­ingly while shout­ing at an off­screen cat. It’s painful.)

But then, some­thing hap­pens. Pop­ping up on Richard’s Skype comes a char­ac­ter called Neil Quinn, played by Steve Oram, one of the cur­rent Bri­tish masters of un­ease. Richard is in debt to Neil, and Neil is a very nasty piece of work. If there’s a rea­son for hang­ing around Hang Ups, this stuff be­tween Man­gan and Oram is it. Sud­denly, for a mo­ment, the en­tire show feels dif­fer­ent, and you ac­tu­ally be­gin to care about what might hap­pen. What­ever does, though, one thing seems guar­an­teed. Stephen Man­gan will re­turn.

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