There was a long time where the family sitcom appeared to be dead. The early noughties were a bit of a nadir for this genre, not helped by the fact it’s leading exponent was My Family, which clung to all the markers that made it appear so dated. The canned laughter, the stereotyped characters, the punch lines that were on the horizon long before the set-up even began.

Then along came Gavin & Stacey, and a new light shined. No laughter track, no over-blown acting, characters who felt real. Most wonderful of all, it felt warm and sincere. All of the characters had a heart, whilst having an earthiness that saved it from slipping into pure mawkishness. If good comedy is about people rather than jokes, then Gavin & Stacey got it right. There have been imitators and deviations from this form. Hebburn has come the closest to matching the style, although I find the caricature of the middle-class as joyless and the working-class still joyfully bonded together frustrating.

The Café likewise falls in this stable. Based around a seaside café in Weston-Super-Mare, it has all the ingredients of the aforementioned shows: dopey yet likeable leads, oddballs in the supporting cast, and a regional accent, which seems to be the most recurring feature of this genre. At the centre is the unrequited love between Richard (Ralf Little) and Sarah (Michelle Terry). As the second series progresses, they become ever more entangled in relationships with others, whilst still looking doe-eyed at each other. This is perhaps by one and only problem with this programme though: I don’t believe Richard and Sarah should be together. Why shouldn’t Richard be happy with Eva? Why can’t Sarah be with Jason (who, by the way, is a fantastic addition to the cast)?  There is no evidence that the leads would be happier together than they would be with someone else other than a few wistful looks.

Despite this, there is still plenty of joy in this show. I love the Carol and Stan storyline, as they both seek their second chance at love. I adore the deluded insanity of Chloe and Kieran. The writing is strong and even though the mawkishness is a little more evident than in its spiritual forbears, it is still warm rather than sludgy. I hope it continues to quietly charm its audience, and that the characters achieve the happiness they deserve. It just doesn’t mean being with each other.

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