TV: Not Going Out, BBC1

Has Lee Mack become a time traveller? In the new series of Not Going Out he suddenly has three children, all around primary/infant school age, whereas a year ago he had only just become a father for the first time. Apparently the new series of Not Going Out is set seven years on. But don’t expect any hoverboards or meals served in pill form. This is about as traditional and old-fashioned as sitcoms get.

But for once this is a good thing. Mack certainly knows how to craft a gag and he is not a bad actor either, while Sally Bretton as his, yes long-suffering wife Lucy dishes out the one-liners with aplomb too. As I said this might be mainstream, but it is no Mrs Brown’s Boys. Though nor is it Outnumbered, despite the kids getting their fair share of the funnies (and Hugh Dennis pitching up as Lee’s jaded friend Toby). It’s just a nice, cosy family sitcom with the occasional splash of acid wit. 

In the first episode it’s that good old domestic trope, trying to keep the romance of marriage alive when you are too busy doing the school run and bath times to remember it’s your wedding anniversary. But Lee tries to rekindle the magic with firstly a candlelit meal and then a romantic night away on a sleeper train - their dinner dates are usually more Pizza Express than Orient Express.

It’s amazing to think that this series has now been running for a decade, making it the longest running sitcom currently on air, so it makes sense that at least there have been some changes. Mack is a dad in real life so in the same way that he draws on his family strife for his stand-up routines, he has drawn on them for this sitcom version of domestic bliss. 

The best thing about Not Going Out is probably that the pace is so fast you barely notice when a gag does not quite land. There are so many zingers flying past like bullets in combat that there is always a good one round the corner. There are plenty of American sitcoms like this – but they usually have teams of writers piling the quips into the script, whereas this episode is credited to Mack and Daniel Peak – but not many British ones, so we should be grateful that Not Going Out is back. No hoverboards maybe, but then, as I said, it’s not Mrs Brown’s Boys either. And for that we should be grateful.

Fridays from January 13, 9pm, BBC1.

Not Going Out recommisioned for two more series.

Interview with Lee Mack.

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