Last Night's TV: Trollied/Sky1
Town with Nicholas Crane/BBC2
Little Box of Horrors/E4
I'm concerned about Jane Horrocks. She's being typecast, or so it seems to me. First that Tesco advert – you know the one, from the mid Nineties, the one she said paid for her home ("Tesco Towers") and stopped her having to do dross TV. That's as opposed to her new series for Sky1, Trollied, which, presumably, she doesn't think is dross TV. It's about a supermarket called Valco ("Valco serves you right!") and good old Jane plays interim deputy manager Julie. See? Typecasting. Horrocks obviously screams aisle four from a mile off, though I doubt she'd thank you for saying it. After all, it was her who in a recent promotional interview claimed to find shopping in Tesco "a little scary" because "you can have rather a lot of chavs" in there.
But is she right? Not about the chavs, about Trollied. Is it dross? I'm undecided. It's amazing that there aren't more sitcoms set in supermarkets. They're such a part of daily life, and yet also faintly ridiculous, all those self-checkouts and club cards and Bogofs. It's not surprising to find out that Trollied is produced by Ash Atalla, who made his name with The Office. They're the same that way: places where we spend too much time, places we don't even notice any more.
But this isn't The Office. It's nowhere near it. There's not a trace of a future classic. Which doesn't matter, per se, if the thing is amusing enough for the moment. And it is, I suppose. There are some good jokes, some witty ideas. Nothing you wouldn't come up with yourself, if you put your mind to it, but there they were: customers returning half-drunk milk, club card salesmen adding their own questions to the application form, employees getting stage fright before going on the loudspeaker. There was a nice little routine with Margaret, who's been employed as part of a back-to-work-for-pensioners scheme. When her arm passes through the scanner, it registers a pack of plum tomatoes, much to the passive-aggressive frustration of general manager Gavin. She gets allocated to the deli, which would be fine if only she knew what tofu was.
The stars of the show aren't, in fact, Julie and Gavin (Jason Watkins); she's too neurotic, too high-pitched to hold the attention for long. Her flighty, stressed-out personality has been deployed as a running punch line, but it doesn't work. Far more engaging is the blokey banter between Andy and Kieran, the two boys behind the butcher's counter. Played by Mark Addy and Nick Blood, they deliver even the most puerile lines with a certain charm ("I'm interim-ing," said Julie. "Into rimming?" riffed Kieran.) Chanel Cresswell's good, too, as Katie. I predict a romance with Kieran before the series is out.
In all, it wasn't bad. There was no reason to switch over. No reason to tune out. It was lightly amusing, which is enough for what it was. But it's not going to be something to go out of your way for. It's not appointment TV. We won't be buying the DVD. So perhaps Jane was right: not dross. She might want to call her agent, though, and try something set in a café.
After falling so in love with the Ludlow of Nicholas Crane's imagining, I was dismayed to learn the truth. Tesco isn't, as was suggested, the only supermarket in town. There's an Aldi too. And there are plenty of chains! Boots, Specsavers, and M&Co. So, so much for that.
As result, I spent most of last night's Town wondering what I could trust. Was Scarborough really the Monte Carlo of the North? How much influence do the residents really have over local budgets? In truth, Crane seemed less enamoured with this town than with Ludlow and there were fewer claims made on its behalf. They do have magic water, though. Drink it and you'll be running for the bog before you can say sulphur content. Unless, of course, that's nonsense too.
"If You've Been Framed is the Ribena of clip shows, then this is the crystal meth cut with rat poison." So began Little Box of Horrors, E4's latest late-night offering, presented (or at least voiceovered) by James Buckley, he of The Inbetweeners. I wrote that line down because it sounded so ridiculous; in fact, it's rather a good assessment of things. What followed was a bleary mix of the profane and the provocative: Women's Institute members visiting a sex shop, adverts for Gaytime ice lollies, repeated appearances by a sweaty telesales presenter flogging medieval weapons. It's like an upside down Harry Hill: the presenter's not terribly funny, but the clips, in the most juvenile of ways, are.
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