TV, Warren, BBC One

warren martin clunes hat trick/BBC

If you watch the right programmes – Derry Girls, Catastrophe – you could easily argue that we are going through a golden age of sitcom at the moment. On the other hand if you watch Warren, starring Martin Clunes as the perma-grumpy titular driving instructor, you might feel that the sitcom is fatally wounded.

In the third episode of this drearily predictable comedy (airing on Monday, March 11) Warren finds himself lumbered with his partner's sister's husband Colin (Aaron Neil) temporarily moving in after he gives him some relationship advice and Colin's wife promptly kicks him out. Cue Warren gloomily wandering around his own house until oh joy, he sees that Colin is doing all the D-I-Y jobs Warren is supposed to do. Including his tax return (though judging by the amount of instructing we see him doing I'm surprised he earns enough to have to fill in a tax return).

It's a pretty flimsy plotline, but there is no reason why it couldn't make good comedy. You could even make a whole sitcom out of mismatched co-habitees. Here the structure is about as sturdy as Warren's shelf-making. And it doesn't help that Warren is not a particularly sympathetic person. On hearing that Colin has been signed off sick from his IT job due to stress his response is positively withering. "What's he stressed about? Lost his mousemat?" Of course you can have an unsympathetic lead and still have a hit, but not in the case.

As if one dodgy narrative wasn't enough Warren's stepson Charlie (Tim Preston) and girlfriend Prisha (Rameet Rauli) decide to have a night in a hotel, courtesy of Prisha's dad's credit card. And who should turn up in the same hotel but Warren's partner Anne (Lisa Millett) and sister Liz (Martine Brown). Holy synchronicity. Who'd have thought it?

Again you could forgive these ridiculous coincidences if all the other constituent parts of the sitcom, penned by newcomers Jimmy Donny Cosgrove and Paul McKenna (not that one), were fully functioning. But it isn't just that Warren feels tired. Three episodes in and it also feels desperate. No amount of face-pulling from the always-watchable Clunes can save it.

Having said that, this might be getting a pasting from the critics but it seems to be doing OK in the ratings. While all the chattering classes attention has been on the new Alan Partridge series this has notched up a bit of a following. God knows how. People who don't know how to use the remote? People who miss Keeping Up Appearances? It wouldn't be the world's biggest shock to hear that the BBC has commissioned a second series. It would just be depressing. 

Warren, Mondays, BBC One, 9pm.

Picture: BBC/Hat Trick 


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