Warren - Martin Clunes stars as an 'irredeemably unpleasant' driving instructor in limp new BBC sitcom
It seems that ITV has given up on comedy – their remaining sitcoms, Birds of a Feather and Bad Move, were recently cancelled, apparently not to be replaced.
So, is sitcom dead? Judging by Warren (BBC1, Mondays, 9pm), it should be.
Martin Clunes stars as Warren, a driving instructor who could only be suffering from depression, given his constant raging at the world.
This sitcom didn’t really have much situation at all.
It was supposedly set in Preston, but as it was filmed in Cardiff, you got no real sense of location, beyond a faked up sign for the 'Preston Gate' retail park and some generic northern accents.
There were a couple of ‘jokes’ about moving up north and people hating southerners –“that’s racist”, fumed Warren – but there was otherwise no real reason for it to be set in Lancashire.
And nothing was made of Warren being a driving instructor, apart from him being able to drive around a bit.
As for the com part. Well, that was totally non-existent. Much of what passed for comedy was Warren calling his partner’s children ‘a prat’.
There was a slightly odd subplot about fly-tipping, which went nowhere, and an old sitcom favourite, keeping up with a competitive neighbour.
But the biggest problem wasn’t the lack of a clear situation, it was that Warren was so irredeemably unpleasant.
Clunes was in a memorable hit as Gary in Men Behaving Badly, and you can sort of see this is where that character might have ended up – a sad, embittered, humourless, uptight, foul-mouthed, fly-tipping ninny, who is no longer young, footloose and fancy-free, and regrets it.
But whereas Gary was almost pathetically devoted to girlfriend Dorothy, Warren has no redeeming qualities. And that goes for the show too.
He’s back, in This Time With Alan Partridge (Mondays, BBC1, 9.30pm) and his mouth is still stuffed with foot. A note-perfect pastiche of the early evening magazine show, Alan is the antidote to Warren.
There was a fantastic documentary on this week, Three Identical Strangers (Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm), which told an incredible story in a matter-of-fact, journalistic way. Worth seeking out.