It’s difficult not to like somewhere which could possibly be the first city to have the locals accurately represented by a reality show, that calls its local brew “dog” and reveres as an icon, a man who would celebrate scoring for the Toon by raising his arm for a high five – and then running away from his team entirely.
In fact, in a way that closely resembles the locals, Hebburn has a unpolished charm which is delightfully indifferent to outsider observation.
This Geordie comedy is a wry look at the inconspicuous nuclear families we know and love and the shenanigans that sustain them. It will be more likely to make you grin than giggle, but this should not be read as disapproval; Hebburn is thoroughly enjoyable.
Comedian Jason Cook wrote the show based upon his life growing up in Hebburn, South Tyneside, and it plays host to range of family stereotypes: The verbally explicit grandmother (upon leaving the toilet: “Right. I’ve freed the slaves”), the bighearted scoundrel played by Cook, which coincidentally is a character inspired by Chris Ramsey who in turn plays the comedian’s younger self. There is also the “lovable slapper” of a sister (“He proper broke her heart…she couldn’t box for weeks”) and the all knowing father played by a newly hirsute Vic Reeves. The cast is completed by Gina McKee (Our Friends in the North, Notting Hill) as Jack’s mother and Kimberley Nixon (Fresh Meat) as his secret wife.
Hebburn has the potential to grow into a programme with the warm comic familiarity of a Gavin & Stacey, Outnumbered or Friday Night Dinner. However, some of the jokes are too obviously just punchlines looking for an introduction from the aforementioned stereotypes. Whilst the dialogue initially suffers in parts from what seems like a lack of familiarity between the cast although this appears to be remedied in subsequent episodes.
Realising the longstanding ambition of many stand-ups by writing Hebburn, Cook follows in the footsteps of fellow comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK. But whilst this affectionate homage to the north east will undoubtedly win many fans, it is unlikely to be quite as popular as either Seinfeld or Louie.