Television Reviews: Frasier and Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

AS PART OF "Frasier Night" on New Year's Day, Channel 4 screened the episode which viewers had nominated as their favourite. It was a remarkable show, but an even more remarkable choice, because Frasier himself was on vacation and Kelsey Grammer appeared in only one fleeting scene. You wonder whether Grammer would take that vote of no-confidence as badly as his character would.

In the new series (C4), Frasier has been fired from KACL and appears to have landed a job as a TV shrink. We found him welcoming viewers to his new slot, and making respectful noises about the previous occupant. American viewers would have read that as a subtextual homage to Seinfeld. For this sixth series, Frasier has stepped into Seinfeld's shoes in NBC's prestigious 8pm slot on Thursdays. The studio audience duly gave it a knowing laugh. The camera pulled back to reveal that this was only a screen test, and that Frasier has by no means got a new job. There's a sense in which the character is auditioning not only in America as Seinfeld's replacement, but also for the British audience, whose favourite episode was the one in which Niles took Daphne to a ball after his date dropped out. In this new series, their romance has finally been allowed to blossom. They may as well start calling the show Niles.

There has been only one episode of Gimme Gimme Gimme (BBC2) so far, and I've already nominated my favourite. It's the one where the two main characters go on holiday in the first scene and never come back. In this dream episode their neighbour, a retired prostitute, wouldn't have to complain about the noise. "Ambient trip hop I can put up with," she drawled last night, "but when you put on Acker Bilk I was sick." There's no actress on the planet who could make that line sing.

On paper, this flatshare sitcom has enough going for it. It sees Kathy Burke as a lonely, bitter nymphomaniac, and James Dreyfus as a gay actor between jobs. The script is by Jonathan Harvey, whose bittersweet stage plays make wry observations on gay life. In a play, you can imagine him riffing sublimely on a scenario in which a straight woman and a gay man both lech after the same hunk. But is there enough in it for an entire series?

Racking my brain, I can't think of any playwrights who have successfully written sitcoms, or vice versa, unless you count Patrick Marber's co-writing credit on Knowing Me, Knowing You. The rhythms of the two forms are so different that excellence in one area is no guarantee of even mild talent in another. This looks like a tribute to the campness of the awful sitcoms Harvey grew up on, in the form of an impersonation. He's got the campness down to a T, with his frank allusions to gay lore, but he's also got the awfulness, too. Harvey uses a much broader brush than he would for theatre, and, for the most part, the dialogue is too frenzied, too eager to make an impression.

In truth, it is done no favours by the casting. Burke and Dreyfus are the obvious choices for these roles, but maybe they're too obvious. I know they're meant to be doing caricatures, but their overacting has the ring of desperation about it, as if the only way to get a laugh is to beg for it. There are occasional flashes of subtle brilliance from Burke, but this is not the psychologically detailed study that, from the evidence of her interview in The Independent this week, she thinks she's giving. At one point, they wonder whether the mysterious man in their flat is a ventriloquist, solely so that Burke can utter the line, "I wouldn't mind him sticking his hand up my skirt and making my lips move." Between them, the writing and the acting have created something too grotesque. As for Dreyfus, who did one hilarious mincing routine, he'd be twice as funny if he gave half the performance.

In the end, you need some reason to like sitcom characters. Frasier, for all his veniality, is rewarding company. These two seem to hate themselves and each other. How can we be expected to feel any differently?

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

    Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for