TV: Hospital People, Episode Five, BBC1

It's not easy making a mainstream sitcom. There is more to it than just stringing together a lot of laugh-out-loud gags. If that was all it took then Hospital People would be the comedy sensation of the year.

There is no doubt that it certainly offers value for money in gag rate terms. Tom Binns' hapless DJ Ivan Brackenbury leads the way with his endless stream of double meanings (diarrhoea week - "runs from Friday") but not far behind is wannabe stand-up, Father Kenny (Binns again) with a sense of humour that makes Ken Dodd seem like Stewart Lee.

And then there are the unintended entrendres from manager Susan Mitchell (Binns as well). This week she is concerned about her big opening. A new ward is being launched by Health Minister Hannah Steel, played far too convincingly by Sally Phillips, aided on her visit by her spin doctor, played by Emma Sidi.

Steel is incapable of answering a question witha a straight answer, even one as simple as "do you want a cup of tea?" and is never one to miss a photo opportunity, elbowing others aside faster than you can say Donald Trump. It's a great performance. I just hope Phillips doesn't go into politics because she would be terrifying.

In laughter terms this episode works even if some of the gags are on the groan-worthy side (follow Twitter during the broadcast to see a range of opinions). It just doesn't quite hit a nerve, however, in the way, say, The Office or Car Share or Father Ted did. But they are absolute all-time classics, which is a pretty high bar. Hospital People might not have the entire nation in stitches, but it is hardly a terminal case either.

Hospital People, Friday, May 26, 9.30pm, BBC1.

 

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