The Café's got Royle family alumni and a cast of familiar characters, but is it enough to keep us coming back for seconds?
So, you know This Is Jinsy? Well, this isn’t.
This is The Café, which opened Wednesday night with the first 2 of 6 episodes. And where Sky Atlantic’s other recent sit com venture took place on the fictitious, abstract island of Jinsy, this one on Sky One is located on much more solid ground; namely the seafront of Weston-Super-Mare – a place where the tide going in and out all seems so unnecessarily rushed.
Which is exactly the atmosphere this series about life in and around Cyrils Café is setting out to convey, and the fact that some of the best laughs can come out of the tiniest moments.
Of course, if anyone was going to be able to capture and distil the sheer comedy in nothing much happening at all, then who better than couple of Royle Family alumni; Ralf Little and Craig Cash.
Little is the star and co-writer (along with Michelle Terry) and Cash the director – and for the man who gave us the aforementioned family Royle as well as the marvellously downbeat and claustrophobic Early Doors, Cash must have given himself a nose bleed with this one, as the action shifts dramatically across the road to the Wetlands Care Home, and all the way around the corner to the hairdressers. It’s your Bond film, Craig!
For this epic sprawl across 50 square yards of Somerset seafront, Little and Terry have assembled a cast of familiar characters, by which I mean exactly the kind of folks you know from home, the shops, the Post Office, the bus and of course, the local caff. There’s Richard the care home nurse and unambitious dreamer (Little) who secretly loves sharp witted but sulky aspiring writer Sarah (Terry), back from London on the rebound and working in mum’s tea shop. Mum is Carol, who right fancies Stan the florist, and Carol’s mum knows that Carol fancies Stan, and that Stan fancies Carol, and yet…
Then there’s Olympic events organiser and former fat classmate John, back home visiting his sick mum at Wetlands, and Stan’s daughter, flighty daughter Chloe who runs the hairdressers, and described by her dad Stan as ‘thick as a whale omelette’.
There’s also gay Kieran the human statue, Big Issue Frank and…well, you get the idea; a bunch of folks for whom light gossip, questionably factual anecdotes and cake-based jokes keeps them going just nicely, thank you.
‘Wendy’s nephew’s got an Aston Martin’. ‘Austin Metro, Nan’.
But is that enough for you sitting at home, eavesdropping on their lives? Well, if you’re the kind of person who finds people-watching to be a most edifying pastime, and the richness of words a real tonic, then you are on safe ground here, just about four yards short of the shifting sands of Weston.
Little and Terry absolutely roll around like pigs in muck in the language of their characters which will range from wistful, throwaway thoughts and familiar refrains (‘laters’) into sharp little jab-jab-jab exchanges, as when Richard, with Sarah and her Nan on hand, gazes out of Cyril’s window and sees John arrive back in town:
‘That’s a Porsche. I got a Clio’.
‘Not yet you haven’t’.
‘No but I will have’.
‘Wendy’s nephew’s got an Aston Martin’.
‘Austin Metro, Nan’.
Episode 2 provides us with a similar verbal dance, this time based around the correct way to serve a cream tea; a topic which has no problem knitting its way throughout the whole episode, before it allows itself a coup de grace of genuine poignancy (classic Royle Family) between mum and daughter as the running scone joke and a Final Demand being hidden away in a drawer collide.
Oh, and on that knitting note, Nan knits constantly. Only she can’t. She knits nets.
Over the last couple of years or so, Sky One have clearly made a consolidated effort to present themselves as a channel that wants to do its business just like their buddies over on terrestrial, and in giving this gently lapping little comedy space alongside the likes of ‘Ross Kemp On..’, ‘A League Of Their Own’ and David Walliams ‘Wall Of Fame’, they are proving they’ve got the chops to do it.
You can find me on Twitter @itsmarkwebster
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