TV Review: Man Down, C4

man down

Hold the proverbial front page. Stop the so-called presses. Man Down is not yet another school-based sitcom. When I heard that Greg Davies would be playing a teacher in his self-penned sitcom debut I assumed this would pick up similar themes to Big School and Bad Education. Particularly as Davies has carved out a bit of a blackboard-based niche for himself playing Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners. 

In fact it is only about half-way through the first episode of Man Down that we even discover that Dan is a drama teacher, when he finally turns up for work, minus his usual trousers. Waterloo Road this ain't. We've already seen him assaulted by his dad in a bear costume (shades of Burt Kwouk in the Pink Panther) and dumped by his girlfriend who is clearly way too good and sensible for him. It's just another normal day for Dan then.

He's your typical hopeless, hapless sitcom male, but don't panic, this is no Father Figure. There is plenty of slapstick and the plot is frankly ludicrous at times, yet, having seen Davies' last couple of live shows in which he talks about his eccentric family and his time as a real-life drama teacher, I can imagine that his real dad may well have attacked him at one point in ursine style. Oh, and in case you haven't heard already, Davies looky-likey Rik Mayall plays dad. Brilliant casting even if there is only a decade between them.

The rest of the cast makes Dan actually seem quite grounded. Roisin Conaty plays his lipstick-smeared, boozy, promiscuous friend, while Mike Wozniak plays the kind of accountant I would not let anywhere near my financial affairs. But this is very much the Greg Davies show. He gets all the best lines, all the big laughs and would tower over everybody even if he was not six foot eight inches. And because he is a big kid his pupils love him and hang on his every word while his colleagues think he's a bit of a dick.

There is a proper storyline lurking in there as well as gratuitous fart gags, as Dan, who still lives in a shabby annexe next to his parents, attempts to win back his girlfriend by trying to man up and behave as an adult. Not that we see much mature behaviour from him in the first episode, which also involves a Tina Turner medley, some accidental cross-dressing and a violent tailoring encounter. 

This is clearly what you might call an equal ops oddball sitcom. Nobody is normal. The same, of course, could be said about Father Figure. Which just highlights the strange alchemy of sitcomland. Both Jason Byrne and Greg Davies are inspired live performers, but while Byrne's magic has been mislaid somewhere on the journey from stage to screen, Davies' high velocity lunacy is in full effect. And for that we should give huge, six foot eight inch high thanks.

Man Down is on C4 on Fridays at 9.30pm.

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