TV: I Want My Wife Back, BBC1

Hapless hubby with his life in a muddle? It feels like we’ve been in I Want My Wife Back territory before. Sometimes even with the same star, Ben Miller. Anyone remember The Worst Week Of My Life? This new series, created, written and produced by Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni, is not as slapstick as that earlier Miller outing but it seems to operate in the same middle class milieu. 

Miller plays Brighton-based businessman Murray, who is so busy with his demanding career his neglected wife Bex (Caroline Catz) decides she has had enough and packs her bags. The complication in the first episode is that she has decided to do this in the run-up to her suprise 40th birthday party. So just as she is trying to leave and start a new life everyone is hugging her and wishing her well.

It’s a fairly straightforward premise – a couple splitting but not quite seamlessly splitting – and this being BBC1 it doesn’t exactly push the envelope creatively. But you can see a few quirkier subplots brewing that might spice things up – the boss who needs Murray to cover up for his philandering, the colleague who has a crush on Murray, the deadpan Welsh Asian friend with sexual issues who confides in Murray. And let's face it we don’t see enough deadpan Welsh Asian friends with sexual issues onscreen these days. And look out for Cariad Lloyd too, which helps.

And, of course, Miller is never less than enjoyable as besuited, bewildered Murray. He is very good at Jack Lemmon-ish repressed comedy stress and juggling lots of comedic balls – verbal, physical – at the same time. He is also very good at showing how Murray is essentially a good person but a bit crap at organising his life. Some scenes are a bit blinking obvious though. When he walks in on an anger management group, for instance, guess what - someone gets angry.

But as I said, this is BBC1. The most radical aspect is that this is not a studio-based Mrs Brown's Boys sitcom. Don't expect Catastrophe or Toast of London though, but IWMWB  is certainly darker than Miranda. File under "potentially good" rather than "must-see". 

I Want My Wife Back, BBC1, Mondays, 9.30pm

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