TV review: Stephen Tompkinson's line in put-upon nice guys is wearing a bit thin in Truckers


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The Independent Culture

What can the amount of chest hair a man exposes tell you about his inner turmoil? Rather a lot, judging by the troubled truck driver's deep V-neck in this first episode of the BBC's new Nottingham-set five-part drama, Truckers.

Each of the hour-long episodes will focus on a key moment in the life of a haulage yard worker: last night it was the turn of a walking mid-life crisis called Malachi, who was finding it hard to come to terms with the breakdown of his marriage and his wife's new relationship with a younger man.

TV everyman Stephen Tompkinson played Malachi with the familiar air of defeat that's come to be his trademark. Only Tompkinson is not really an everyman, is he? He's one very specific man, that actor out of Ballykissangel, and Wild at Heart and his line in put-upon nice guys is beginning to wear a little thin. Truckers may represent the limit.

The laboriously regional script didn't make it any easier. The dialogue was so crammed with earthy wisdom and quaint sexual euphemisms that the actors struggled to get a breath in. Malachi's son's description of tantric sex, "How to stop coughing your custard with t' power of your mind", was a particular low point.

The writer, William Ivory, the man behind the 2010 film Made in Dagenham and 1990s bin-men sitcom Common As Muck, specialises in such stories about hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, nowt-as-queer-as folk sweetened by obligatory uplifting endings.

Truckers' debt to films such as Brassed Off and The Full Monty was made obvious last night. The episode culminated in Malachi stripping down to a thong, before delivering a rousing speech on the tyranny of youth to a spontaneously gathered crowd in Nottingham's Old Market Square. On a cinema screen in 1997, he might have seemed like an inspiration to the downtrodden. On a TV screen in 2013 it was just Stephen Tompkinson making a wally of himself.