A comment from on of the chief reviewers in this weeks Radio Times caught my attention his week. Each week the magazine selects a drama of the week, documentary of the week and so on. David Butcher commented that often the hardest task is selecting a Comedy of the Week, due to the lack of quality in general across the genre on television. He is therefore delighted at the riches that are currently on-screen.

Amongst the fleet of sitcoms doing their bit is Greg Davies mad-cap comedy Man Down, a tale of an overweight, middle-aged drama teacher whose girlfriend has left him after years of incompetence and buffoonery, leaving him to rebuild his life. Of course there are the usual band of hindrances in his friends and family, not to mention his own emotional and social limitations. Not the most original premise I grant you, but it gets away with it with aplomb. Why? Because it is funny!

Davies himself is, of course, naturally funny both physically and in verbally. He is brilliant at playing a man whose life is spiralling out of control. But the supporting cast deserve plaudits as well. First there is Rik Myall playing his borderline-sociopathic father, a comically malevolent force who can’t help but steal the scenes he is in. Roisin Conaty is equally delightful as the monstrous and delusional Jo, whose life, like Davies’s seems to be swirling around the gutter, except you feel she never climbed out of it in the first place. Then there are the minor characters, including aggressive waitress Shakira and the unseen (yet clearly terrifying) Bob.

Yet the character who is most adoringly crafted is Brian, played by Mike Wozniak. Brian is the straight-guy in this ensemble of the bizarre; he has the stable home life, the successful career and the ability to not cause the calamities everybody else does. Yet there are little hints that not everything is right under the surface: suggestions he is bottom of the pecking order at home for a start. And  despite initial reluctance, he seems actually quite willing to get involved on the car crash lives that surround him, which seems odd if he is so centred in his life. A particularly joyous moment saw him give a speech on the how to maintain a Direct Debit that would have even put an orator like Churchill to blame. It was the battle-cry of the respectable middles-classes to end them all. Somehow the most square and normal of all the characters is the one who is the most brilliant.

Man Down is indeed a treat. Yes the comedy can aim at a base level – one episode revolved around a man with a giant backside –  but such crudity, when played well and with balance is fine. On this basis, British comedy is in stronger health that it’s detractors would give it credit for.

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