Free Agents Review: Friday’s TV

February 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

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FREE AGENTS, C4, Friday 13th February 10.00pm Alert Me

Free Agents has decent pedigree, with stars of the standard of Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Stephen Mangan (Green Wing) and Matthew Holness, who played the wonderful Garth Marenghi, but it more stumbles rather than explodes onto Channel 4 this Friday. Whilst the actors are generally good, particularly supporting players Head and Holness – both of whom take a childhood glee in the freedom of their characters’ work as media-types – the writing jolts and lurches in places and is over-reliant on effing and blinding and general crude toilet humour.

In terms of the cast, Sharon Horgan (Pulling), who plays the leading lady – a cynical 30 something whose fiancee died of a freak heart condition and who has now struck up a dysfunctional solely sexual relationship with Mangan’s Alex – is the weakest link. She’s inoffensive for most of this first episode, even eliciting some laughs on occasion, but there’s an awfully clumsy drunk scene in which she stumbles around her house with a glass of wine which eclipses any good work she does elsewhere.

While the potrayal of a creative agency is by no means totally unrealistic, the exaggeration of distasteful misogyny and work relationships isn’t always funny. True, the initial meeting is probably one of the funnier scenes in Free Agents, but any one-on-one interaction is fairly stunted, overwhelmed by expletives and sneering.

Anthony Head is probably the best character as the charming but basically awful head of the agency, Stephen, a serial divorcee with a penchant for forcing his staff to come up with impromptu erotic stories on a Monday morning, and his interaction with his staff is both amusing and cringe-making – like a smooth David Brent – but the particular thorn in the side of Free Agents is the lack of development with characters such as Holness’s generic creative type Dan and Alex’s assistant, both of whom are resolutely two dimensional in this first episode.

Perhaps Free Agents will be a grower, and the characters and their relationships will have time to develop, but right now this looks destined to be a one-series shot. Unless the writing and the performances are stepped up a notch, it seems unlikely that it’s going to get itself recommissioned.

By Chris Harding