BBC's Boomers: It’s entertaining enough, but this comedy feels old and tired

Some of the great cast are pushing 70, but they’re only just entering their prime

In the pilot stage, Boomers (Fri) was originally titled “Grey Mates”. As the subsequent title change indicates, this new BBC1 sitcom has ambitions to rebrand comedy’s portrayal of sixtysomethings. The desired tone is fun and modern, with no slapstick and no canned laughter. Think Friends if Ross was trying out a new cholesterol medication and Rachel liked to Skype the grandkids on weekends.

Episode one of six saw the old gang getting back together again. What’s the occasion? A funeral, of course. No-longer-Young One Nigel Planer guest-starred as Mick, ex-husband of the deceased, who was over from Spain for the day with his 30-year-old Eastern European bride. Alan (Philip Jackson) was delighted to be reminded of the old days, but the others weren’t so sure. Alan’s wife, Joyce (Alison Steadman), worried that Mick would lead her husband astray and John (Russ Abbot) was frightened Mick would rekindle an ancient flirtation with his wife, Maureen (Stephanie Beacham).

The effort that has gone into Boomers is obvious, and yet a trendy single-camera set-up and a soundtrack of (probably expensively licensed) rock and Motown can’t make the script’s age-based stereotypes feel any fresher. Boomers dutifully ticks off the supposed concerns of its target demographic, without ever acknowledging that all age brackets are made up of individuals. That it remains entertaining despite this is largely down to a great cast. Steadman, Beacham, Paula Wilcox and James Smith (from The Thick of It) are pushing 70, but they’re only just entering their prime.

What do Boomers star Russ Abbot and broadcaster Andrew Marr have in common? Both can do a surprisingly effective Scottish accent when the occasion requires. Abbot’s “CU Jimmy” character from his 1980s sketch show days was voted third in a 2003 Glasgow Herald poll of “Most Scottish Person in the World” and Marr’s Beeb-softened vowels still occasionally betray a childhood in Glasgow and Dundee. His Scottish heritage was deftly utilised in Andrew Marr’s Great Scots (Sat BBC2), the first of three illuminating biographies.

James Boswell would make a fascinating subject for any biographer. Not only did he invent the literary genre of biography in its current form with the publication of his Life of Samuel Johnson, but his own life story was a catalogue of debauchery that would make a brothel-keeper blush. (Why Channel 4 hasn’t already turned his London Journal into a late-night period drama is anyone’s guess). In Marr’s hands, and on the eve of the most important vote in 300 years of Scottish history, Boswell’s story should inspire even more interest. 

This was ground on which Marr might be expected to tread carefully. He’s already been ticked off by the SNP for allegedly expressing bias during an interview with Alex Salmond earlier in the year. Lucky for him, the parallels between these two Scottish journos are too compelling to be overlooked. Clearly our presenter couldn’t help but relate to “a man torn between patriotism and the allure of the big city – in our case, love of Scotland and lust for London”.

Marr proved himself a worthy successor to his hero when it came to well-chosen anecdotes and animating description. With the help of actors Kieran Brown and Mike Henley, he brought both men powerfully back to life. Still, by the time the hour was out, it was obvious that these were not just men, but metaphors: “This is perhaps the prime example in literature of two men, the Scot and the Englishman, who achieved far more together than they ever would have done had they never met.”

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower