Entertainment

Romesh Ranganathan’s sadcom creation is a punishing bore

Can you even call yourself a comedian these days if you haven’t churned out an ultra-dark sitcom—or rather, a “sadcom”? From Ricky Gervais’ After Life (grief) and Mae Martin’s Feel Good (addiction) to Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi (cancer, grief again) and Aisling Bea’s This Way Up (suicidal breakdown), punchlines respectfully give way to gut punches.

That’s not to say comedy can’t be a fantastic stealth vehicle to delve into deeper issues – Fleabag remains the gold standard. TV genres are not set in stone in 2022 either. Sequel, technically called drama, has more laughs per episode than all of the above combined. But is the appetite for the sadcom waning? Netflix certainly thinks so. According to a recent strategy memo, the streamer wants more escapist fare like the bland Emily in Paris (quelle horreur) and fewer doom-and-gloom shows masquerading as comedies.

All of which brings me reluctantly to Romesh Ranganathan’s new show, avoidance (BBC One). In addition to co-writing with Benjamin Green, the host of The Weakest Link plays Jonathan, a “conflict-avoiding beta male” who is so mad about living with him that his partner Claire has decided to leave him. Jonathan can’t bear to tell their nine-year-old son, Spencer, so he runs to his sister Danielle’s house and takes Spencer with him.

There aren’t many successful comedies that start with a cowardly kidnapping, and Avoidance shows why. I think we should sympathize with Jonathan, who may be suffering from mental health issues (whenever he panics, menacing music kicks in – which is at least a change from the indie rock miasma). But in the two episodes I’ve watched, he’s essentially a black hole of denial and failure, sucking in everyone around him.

Unfortunately, that’s true of the three bright, successful women who are reduced to playing the nagging mother, the perceptive nanny and/or the impromptu therapist. Jonathan repays her efforts by constantly lying to her, for example by telling Danielle that he goes to work every day while actually playing arcade games. It’s a criminal waste of Mandeep Dhillon (After Life), who alternates between lecturing Jonathan and apologizing for him to her frustrated wife Courtney (Lisa McGrillis), and Jessica Knappett (who memorably fell off the Taskmaster stage — in her ever since named honor). Your Claire really might just be the disappointed face emoji.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/avoidance-review-romesh-ranganathans-sadcom-creation-punishing/ Romesh Ranganathan’s sadcom creation is a punishing bore

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