Two Doors Down, series 5 episode 1 review: yet another sitcom made from the same old ingredients

·2-min read
Arabella Weir and Alex Norton star in Two Doors Down - BBC
Arabella Weir and Alex Norton star in Two Doors Down - BBC

One of the canonical laws of classic sitcom is that nothing ever really changes. Whatever happens in the preceding 30 minutes, by the end of the episode you’re essentially back where you started: long-suffering wives continue to suffer; Basil Fawlty is still very angry; David Brent is still David Brent.

Two Doors Down (BBC Two), the suburban Scottish sitcom, has stuck to that rule to the letter: there have been 27 previous episodes; I saw the first couple a five years ago and am delighted to report that this first episode of a fifth series is to all intents and purposes exactly the same.

The set-up sees a carousel of insufferable neighbours popping in to see Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) and causing havoc. The storylines are so formulaic you’re left wondering if this or that plot has already happened in the same episode, let alone in some other sitcom. Monday night’s series opener, for example, saw Beth cooking a veggie curry for her son Ian (Jamie Quinn) and his partner Gordon’s (Kieran Hodgson) second anniversary.

Nosey-parkers and general busybodies Colin (Jonathan Watson) and Cathy (Doon Mackichan) invited themselves round and then careened dizzily through all the worst things uninvited guests can do, making jokes about Ian and Gordon being gay, mocking non-alcoholic beer and chastising Beth for making a curry without meat.

Christine (the ever-excellent Elaine C Smith) turned up too, with a case of diarrhoea that she blamed on one of Beth’s ham sandwiches. She spent the next half-hour wiping surfaces and checking Beth’s kitchen hygiene, in between hurried visits to the toilet. Then they all sat down for an awkward dinner, with lots of irritated side-eye from Beth and a platter of jokes that varied from quite good to near-the knuckle to just boneheaded.

Two Doors Down’s method is to lure you in with the homespun, old-sitcom, multi-camera set-up and then slap you round the chops with sudden bursts of ribaldry. There’s effing and jeffing where you least expect it, a sturdy reliance on poo jokes and a lot of saying the unsayable (where the unsayable might actually be best left unsaid.)

What saves Two Doors Down from the realms of utter dreck is the performances, which are the definition of making the best of a bad situation. Arabella Weir, in particular, fashions a believable character out of half an hour of mildly-miffed reaction shots. And then, by the end of the episode, it’s back to square one. Next week, Beth gets the flu and… but you know the rest.

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