Last Night's TV - Sirens, Channel 4; Dirty, Sexy Things, E4; Guilty Pleasures, BBC4

They've got their fingers on the pulse

Let me start with an apology for repeating myself, because I'm pretty sure I've already shared with you my very personal reason for not reviewing a new comedy series after only one episode; in fact, I would have shared it with my therapist, if I had one.

If you recall the sorry tale, feel free to skip forward, but if not, here goes. Way back in the mid-1990s, as a TV critic for another national newspaper, I watched the first episode of a new Channel 4 sitcom about three Irish priests who shared a house. Well, I couldn't make head nor tail of it, wrote that it was complete bilge, and for years afterwards the makers of Father Ted joyfully included my scathing review alongside the lashings of praise from everyone else.

So, I've been careful ever since about making an early assessment of a new comedy, and more often than not I've seen the wisdom of that circumspection, because they usually either get better, or get worse. All of which brings me to Sirens, also on Channel 4, and also with three men doing the same job at its core, although in this case the men are paramedics, not priests. As it happens, I liked last week's first episode, and better still, last night's second episode was, well, better still.

Sirens is a comedy-drama that gets its laughs out of character rather than situation, which is where so much comedy goes wrong, and squeezes drama from banality rather than improbability, which indeed is where lots of drama goes wrong.

It is mainly about relationships, and rather like The Three Musketeers, it contains pathos, bathos and Aramis. Actually, it wasn't Aramis but some other scent on another man's underpants that Stuart (Rhys Thomas) found under his new girlfriend's bed. This is the girlfriend with whom he'd been unable to consummate his lust because of issues about his estranged father, at least according to his mate Maxine (Amy Beth Hayes), a policewoman whose first foray into internet dating misfired when she noticed that her date had no tax disc on his car. Really, Sirens is an edgier, funnier, sexier version of Casualty.

It was conceived and written by Brian Fillis, who has struck on something by creating a paramedic, Stuart, who doesn't particularly like humanity. There's a long and illustrious history of misanthropes in TV comedy, and lots of possibilities in a misanthrope whose job, at which he happens to be very good, is to help people. As he says, "I may be a miserable sod, but I can generally get to your doorstep in under eight minutes." Also on board are Ashley (Richard Madden) and Rachid (Kayvan Novak), the latter an amiable dimbo who hasn't yet mastered the job's jargon. "Shall I do the eye thing with the shiny light?" he says.

Stuart drives the ambulance, but it is also driven by testosterone, with emergency calls becoming a race to get to a crisis ahead of the fire engine. I suspect Fillis has hit on something there, too. I'm full of admiration for them, and I hope I'll never need them, but in real life, as in Sirens, there's undoubtedly sometimes a boys-with-toys dimension to firemen and ambulance crews.

Perou is a boy with a toy, too, in his case a whopping big camera. He is a glamour photographer – "Debbie Harry on Tuesday, Bob Hoskins on Wednesday" – who in Dirty, Sexy Things auditioned a bunch of models and chose eight of them, repeatedly declaring his intention to push them as models and himself as a photographer, although to what purpose was never really made clear. Maybe there was no purpose except to offer us some insight into the world of modelling, but Dirty, Sexy Things didn't do that, either. More than anything, it seemed like a vehicle to show some attractive young people half, or rather seven-eighths, naked, and for Perou to show that his brain ticks as quickly as his shutter shuts. On that score, frankly, the jury is still out.

Never mind. I liked Jay, the Londoner with hang-ups about his body (neuroses that could impede his success as a model, observed Perou, percipiently), and Ariella, who reckoned that in the world of glamour modelling "you don't have to go topless to go the top". It's a neat slogan. She could have it printed on a T-shirt, then watch as the other girls take their T-shirts off and get all the best jobs. I even saw a flash of nipple in a watch commercial the other day.

Expensive watches are to us what pattern-welded swords were to our medieval forebears, status symbols and sometimes even assertions of a chap's virility. In Guilty Pleasures, the historian Dr Michael Scott looked at how attitudes to luxury have changed through the centuries, and found in the 14th century the real beginnings of the "forces of consumption that now define our lives ... the cusp of the modern world".

Ostentation, he found, goes in cycles. The monk Cuthbert, in the seventh century, was the pin-up boy for the notion that showy wealth was sinful, but by the 1300s it was all the rage, hence the 1363 Act of Apparel that tried to restrict smart clothing to those of appropriate social rank, rather than simply for anyone who could afford it. Unfortunately, it didn't work, which will come as bad news to the man I overheard on a train recently, complaining about "the oiks in morning-suits" at Royal Ascot.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
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.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...