Shiny Shelf


By Eddie Robson on 15 May 2002

Anthony Head returns to British TV like a prodigal son, and his presence ensures that the BBC will be able to sell this slick series about mid-life crises abroad. And it is very slick indeed. It has clearly taken its lead from Sex and the City, not just in the sense that it has four affluent central characters from similar backgrounds but with quite different personalities, but in terms of technique.

For starters, Nigel Havers’ central character speaks to camera a great deal, even in the middle of conversations with other characters (and yes, I’m aware that Lovejoy used to do the same thing, but Sex and the City’s Carrie is the most prominent TV character to do it in recent years). It took me a couple of episodes to realise that you’re not meant to take what he’s saying at face value: the world works in the opposite way from what he claims.

Furthermore, it’s all shot on location, with no laughter track, and it’s by no means a pure comedy. The half-hour witty drama – a format little used since Cardiac Arrest – is a great way to grab the ten o’clock audience who aren’t watching the news. Attachments is similarly a light and satisfying way to spend that time, and hopefully more will be made in this format.

The scripting does leave something to be desired: with targets as easy as middle-aged men acting like teenagers, you have to be pretty sharp and this doesn’t always cut it. Ray Burdis’ supposedly happily married character has not developed enough over the series, although he is principally there as a yardstick for the others.

Although Anthony Head is good as ever, the series’ greatest asset by far is Don Warrington. This man is not on television enough, although I imagine that he does a lot of theatre and so probably doesn’t have time. As Manchild has progressed, he has emerged as by far the most sympathetic character, and not just because his plotline is the genuinely tragic one. He’s also the smartest and, thanks to the actor’s performance, he comes across as the deepest. Whilst the scripting is sometimes mawkish, Manchild is worth watching for Warrington alone.

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By Eddie Robson

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