Comedy dramas are often so called because they don’t effectively fulfil either criteria. The odd zinger of a line aside, and the occasional farcical set-up of physical comedy, and there is very little to laugh at. Conversely, there are few deeply harrowing moments, and the focus is on the smaller downers in life, leading to a lack of big moments. Cold Feet was the exception to this: the writing and cast were strong enough to make the character studies seem worthwhile, and it also successfully captured the zeitgeist.

Mount Pleasant however, demonstrates many of the issues with the genre. Part of the problem is the cast is too big – characters with the slightest connection to the core cast start getting their own storylines, which means the ones that could be developed into something meaningful are not. Take for example Dan and Lisa Johnson. Clearly they are drawn out to be the leads, and the battle between building a career and starting a family could be built on in so many ways. Yet instead we have the distraction of Dan’s parents getting remarried, and his mate Greg trying to palm off some drugs he got hold of. There is no space for the real story to breathe, so instead it will be forced to tread an obvious path.

The big cast also means that many of the scenes feel unconnected and the twists seem unnatural. For instance, why is Greg’s new girlfriend so quick to suddenly have a contact to buy drugs seeing as we know barely anything else about her? Why is an alcoholic vicar hovering round all of a sudden? And if Denise is going to be a model and only connected to the group by a very loose thread, is she needed?

That is not to say Mount Pleasant is actually a bad programme. Some of the characters are interesting enough to make you want to see them succeed. Bianca is a personal favourite of mine, the resident ‘tart-with-a-heart’, who like so many isn’t a tart at all, just a woman who loves to be loved and is surprisingly maternal.

This show could work but it needs pruning, of both characters and storylines. Soaps can get away with big casts and several plots going on at once – they have 2 or 3 hours of airtime a week. 6 or 8 part one-hourly dramas can’t. Like squeezing a 5-minute love song into a 60 second audition, layers are bound to be lost. And quite frankly, the ones that are chucked first are the ones most needed.

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