TV Review: Not Going Out, BBC1

Not Going Out

Not Going Out is apparently the UK’s longest-running sitcom. Not exactly in the Last Of The Summer Wine league, but it has been going since 2006. And actually it does have something in common with Last of the Summer Wine. Boy, are some of the gags creaky and arthritic.

In this first episode Lee (Lee Mack) is walking home with Lucy (Sally Bretton) when they are mugged by a gang of unusually chatty cartoon hoodies. Lee is so emasculated by the event he decides to get fit at a gym so that he is in good enough shape to tackle them again. And yes, that’s right, you guessed it, there’s a comic montage with the Rocky theme playing in the background.

This is, of course, a BBC1 primetime sitcom so the humour is never going to be of the Stewart Lee variety (though there is one surreal puppetry gag, which is easily my favourite comic moment of the month so far). There are jokes about Ryanair, smutty quips about Basic Instinct (quite a lot of masturbation material actually). It’s easy-on-the-ear humour that is probably nowhere near as easy to write as it sounds. 

It’s interesting to see in the credits that a number of familiar comedy names are involved, including Simon Evans and Dave Cohen. While the Sinatra-esque theme tune and swooping camera shots of glamorous nighttime London suggest that Not Going Out aspires to the slick, team-writing comedy of American sitcoms such as Friends, I don't think this is created in the same labour-intensive writers-room style. I don’t think the BBC could afford that for starters.

What Not Going Out has very strongly in its favour is Lee Mack. He might not be able to act his way out of a paper bag – his range is so limited he even shares a name with his character – but he can sell the ripest of one-liners, firing off punchlines as if they are in danger of extinction and he is singlehandedly trying to save the species. It’s a shame Tim Vine is no longer around to give Lee a breather but at least Katy Wix is on hand as dimwitted Daisy to give Mack the occasional rest from riffing. And even without punmeister Vine there is still plenty of winning wordplay.

Future episodes include Hugh Dennis and Abigail Cruttenden arriving as posh neighours. I can sort of feel the culture clash and Lee putting his thick northern foot in it a mile off but I guess I’ll still be watching because there will be gags galore. Not Going Out might not be TV’s most loved sitcom but with Mack going straight for the funny bone every time he opens his big northern gob it is impossible to hate.

Not Going Out is on BBC1, 9.30pm, Fridays.

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