Parents Review: Sky Hits Gold With Austerity Comedy
As the eurozone falls deeper and deeper into a void of chaos and blame, Sky 1 has finally given us an austerity comedy. Firmly representing Cameron’s “squeezed middle” are Jenny and Nick, played by Sally Philips (Smack the Pony, I’m Alan Partridge) and Derren Strange (The Armando Iannucci Show).
After Jenny loses her job following a workplace fight, their house is repossessed by Santander (“formerly Abbey National” as Nick points out) and as Nick has yet to find an investor for his idea of an energy drink for executives, they are forced to move into Jenny’s parents house – along with their teenage children.
Reading this synopsis, you’d be forgiven to think that it’s just another average family-oriented sitcom, but Parents is actually one of the funniest comedy debuts of the year. The cast of characters is fantastic; From Jenny’s mother, who makes her “egg faces” for breakfast – a scrambled representation of Philip Schofield and Tess Daly – to her father, played by Tom Conti, who gives a stunningly dry performance, showing utter contempt for Nick and his hapless entrepreneurial ambitions, despite the latter idolising him completely.
This mix of wise-cracking youngsters, exasperated middle-agers and hip pensioners has become very en vogue of late (Modern Family all but mastered it) but Sky have worked a good angle with all the old-timers treat everyone else like children. Coupled with a good script, it works.
Even the characters with small parts are spot on. Jenny’s sister, slapped in fake tan is a great comic addition, especially when she “helps out” Jenny by giving her an angel figurine and despite being unaware of it’s religious connotations, exudes condescension. At the start of the programme Jenny meets her former boss in a Pizza Express to try and get her job back. He’s reluctant to speak to her, but he gives her a chance warning her that she must be quick, as he has “dough balls on the way.”
It’s all delivered with impeccable comedic knowing and the refreshingly funny start is sustained for the whole episode. There may not be any particular “high concept”, but given how entertaining this one is, such a concept would be superfluous and even the inclusion of yet another hapless sitcom dad can’t spoil things.