Shiny Shelf

Love Soup

By Mags L Halliday on 01 April 2008

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Season one of ‘Love Soup’ didn’t quite taste right: the premise of two London singletons who repeatedly failed to meet was a nice hook, but the length of the episodes (60 minutes) dragged out the comedy, and the refusal to deliver a meeting between the two leads made you question why you should keep watching. Season two has fixed these issues by halving the running time to 30 minutes and ditching the male lead.

This changes the focus from a “will they, won’t they” comedy-drama to the simpler sitcom quest of a single woman, Alice, trying to find romance. When that woman is played by Tamsin Greig (‘Black Books’, ‘Green Wing’ and, for Radio 4 fans, ‘The Archers’) this is no bad thing. She can convey world-weariness with a single arched eyebrow. She is supported by Sheridan Smith (‘Three Pints of Lager…’) and Montserrat Lombard (‘Ashes to Ashes’), as her assistants on a make-up counter, who are also trying to find sex and/or love in the city. Alice, like writer Renwick’s otherworldly characters Victor Meldrew and Jonathan Creek, lives in a slightly different reality. Too romantic for one night stands like Cleo (Smith), and too cynical to fall in love each week like Milly (Lombard), she stands slightly aside and puzzles over why the world and she don’t fit together.

Much of the action is told in flashback, as the women update one another on the state of their love lives, including sequences where Alice relates her dreams. This sort of embedded sequence is something which Renwick excels at and gives the opportunity for the characters to narrate over scenes which might otherwise be too obviously in the realms of fantasy. Alice gets arrested as a terrorist as she’s picked up Cleo’s handbag – with illegal gun – by mistake. She gets wooed by an international publishing tycoon who ran her over on his folding bike. Having braved the world of the lonely hearts columns, she gets stood up by her date, only to discover he – the American writer from the first series – has died.

‘Love Soup’ is perceived, thanks to its old fashioned jazz soundtrack and its mainstream scheduling, as a soft and safe sitcom. Yet a main subplot of the first episode involves mishearing advice about anal sex, and another episode has Cleo and Milly tussling over a man during a funeral. Renwick’s bleak outlook on humanity heaps nothing but misery and worry onto Alice, but Tasmin Greig’s acting makes you still hope for a happy ending.

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