I'm bored," drawled one of the children in Next of Kin (BBC1). You speak for the nation, I thought, and this was only five minutes into the BBC's desperately lame sitcom. Already a stunned torpor had descended as the actors struggled with lines as crisp as a waterlogged cream cracker. The mind tends to stray while watching Next of Kin. Mine strayed to possible explanations for its presence on the network but I could come up with no adequate solution, only wild notions of conspiracy. Is it a calculated attempt by the BBC to goad young scriptwriters into action? Or is it the result of some guerrilla band operating in the comedy department, fighting a bitter rearguard action against the modernising forces of Geoffrey Perkins?

The Radio Times, either through corporate loyalty or some covert association, has been waging a muted campaign on the programme's behalf, pointing out that, whatever the critics say, the audience figures are good and murmuring quietly about the possibility of a third series. This claim about viewing figures is worth inspecting closely. Next of Kin is currently getting around 7.8 million viewers, which is neither terrible nor very good. Later on the same evening, for example, Men Behaving Badly is picking up well over 8 million, despite the fact that it is a repeat. A series with a bankable star, like Penelope Keith, should not really be pottering along in the slow lane like this, which suggests either that the script is not up to much, or Penelope Keith isn't quite as bankable as everyone believed. Allowing for the fact that quite startling numbers of people would watch cows grazing in a field, if it preceded the Nine O'Clock News, I don't think there is any great comfort to be found in the figures.

And it would be difficult to argue that the comedy is going above the heads of the audience. It is not even on speaking terms with plausibility. The machinery of the plot creaks like an ancient windmill in a very light breeze, grinding out predictable gags and exhausted comic set-pieces. Last night, for example, offered another chance to see that old stalwart "A Quiet Night In, Ruined By Unwanted Guests", a routine recently performed with infinitely greater skill by One Foot in the Grave. Here the writers managed to combine callow snobbery (the visitors had a sitcom Essex whine and children called Justin and Sapphire) with cardboard psychology. When a joke is perceived to be working, it is simply repeated - the cleaning lady's confusion of "cerebral" and "celibate" was deemed so richly comic that it appeared no less than three times, as if returning for an encore. If anyone is contemplating a third series, the words of Oliver Cromwell come to mind: "I beseech thee in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you might be mistaken."

Local Heroes (BBC2), a deter-minedly jaunty exercise in popular science, is much more palatable. Its presenter, Adam Hart-Davis, pedals around the country in fluorescent rain-gear, bellowing out facts about his favourite scientists and engineers. He has more heroes than is healthy for a grown man, but his enthusiasm is generous and infectious and he illustrates his points with the sort of jolly, yoghurt-pot experiments familiar from children's science primers. Last night's episode, centred on the north west, began with him sitting at an outdoor cafe next to Lake Windermere and plunging a bicycle pump into a cream-covered sundae. This was to illustrate a device used to take sample cores from the bed of lakes. Given that he has all the qualities of a television "natural" (a term, one is often reminded, which used to be applied to the mentally retarded) his manner is surprisingly bearable. He also does proper honour to men whose inventions are so obvious, once in existence, that one can scarcely believe they had to be invented at all - men such as Joseph Whitworth, before whom every nut and bolt in the world was made to measure.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas