TV: King Gary, BBC One

TV: King Gary, BBC One

The mega-success of the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special demonstrated that when a family sitcom touches a nerve it can get massive audiences and pretty healthy reviews too. So it's no surprise that TV wants to tap into that market on a regular basis.

The latest quest for a successful mainstream hit is King Gary, which has an interesting pedigree. Co-creator/star Tom Davis and co-creator James De Frond cut their teeth on the part-improvised BBC Three crime comedy Murder In Successville in which Davis played a cop paired with unscripted celebs such as Deborah Meaden and Jamie Laing. It was weird, unpredictable and often very funny.

King Gary, on the other hand, is totally scripted, not remotely weird, predictable, but fortunately also very funny. Davis plays Gary King, the down to earth boss of a suburban building firm with a family almost as colourful as the garish furniture in his flashy nouveau riche house. I'm not sure if they specify that it is set in Essex, but I've been to Essex and it certainly has a Loughton vibe to me.

The fast-paced first episode gets stuck into the plot pretty quickly and we have to work out the family dynamic and sitcom character traits as it goes along. As we meet Gary he is trying out spectacles for the first time. But will they change his image too much? Can you still be a working class bloke after a visit to Specsavers? Will everyone start calling him "professor" and ask him if he is wearing them for a bet?

Gary is a hapless boss, but not in the Mainwaring/Brent mould. He's a big bear of a bloke and just not that great an exerting his authority, so when there turns out to be a jack-the-lad prankster on the building team called Lee Benson, Gary has to use his limited range of interpersonal skills to deal with the situation. Or failing that, maybe his dad who founded the firm, played by the brilliantly well-cast Simon Day, can help out. 

There is also very good support from Laura Checkley as Gary's social-climbing wife Terri, who craves acceptance from the more established crowd. Romesh Ranganathan is also in the cast, although you don't see much of him in the first episode. One can only assume he had about four other TV programmes to shoot while they were filming it. 

King Gary is not subtle, with its gags about "pub o'clock" and Gucci slippers, but then it is scheduled to attract a major audience so it is not really supposed to be. Davis has been around a while now and certainly has the stature and presence to be a big comedy star. Not just because he is six foot seven inches but because he has a comedic physicality, particularly during one scene when he is attempting to learn how to walk as if he is the boss. 

This is the sort of sitcom that might divide critics and I'm sure it will divide social media, so I'd suggest the cast decide it is pub o'clock when it is on and leave their phones at home. Will it be looked upon with the same affection as Only Fools And Horses in a few decades' time? Let's hope it has a chance to, ahem, build, an audience. If King Gary does get off to a dodgy start maybe they should remember that so did David Jason's enduring classic.

King Gary, Fridays from 10 January, 9.30pm, BBC One

Picture: BBC/Shiny Button



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