Binging on British panel shows will get scripted series like Not Going Out added to your YouTube ‘recommended’ list. Starring Lee Mack, a regular of shows including Would I Lie To You and Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, this run-of-the-mill sitcom about a periodically employed layabout lacks the bite of his other comedy appearances. It banks on the comedian’s rapid-fire wit, but the succession of one-liners that fuels the dialogue comes off as forced and desperate more often than clever and humorous.
I would blame the writers, but in this case, Mack’s fingerprints are all over the script as creator and co-writer, with Andrew Collins. Try as he might, he can’t really replicate the chemistry he shares with someone like David Mitchell when they go head to head on WILTY. Too often, Not Going Out feels like a one-man show with Mack delivering the bulk of the jokes like he’s ticking off a list in a stand-up routine.
His main foil in the first series is Kate (Megan Dodds), an American who fills multiple roles as his landlady, his flatmate, and his best friend’s ex. She’s smart and a little sassy, but there’s too much reserve in the way Dodds portrays her character. Kate can take Lee’s (Mack) antics but there’s little fire to help the audience warm to her. This makes the ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship that runs through the six short episodes fizzle early.
Kate’s ex Tim (Tim Vine) is Lee’s other comic adversary. A disproportionate amount of abuse is leveled on Tim for his fling with a 23 year old, who his friends assert was far younger. The feckless accountant is the grownup between the two, but he’s no match for Lee’s wit, which makes him a bit dull for viewing as well despite the characters’ supposedly strong friendship.
Without someone who can balance out Lee’s humor and sarcasm, the show never really gets off the ground. It’s at its best when the one-liners ease and it doesn’t seem to be trying too hard. The last two episodes of the series are the strongest because they provide some serious moments that end up increasing the potency of the funny ones. In ‘Kid’, Lee reluctantly shares the flat with a moody teen who turns out to enjoy the uptight Tim’s company more than his. Later, in ‘Caretaker’, he must finally decide what he wants in life and who he wants to share it with when he gets a new job. These episodes generate the most satisfying laughs, which I’m sad to say, this show is pretty short on.
Clip from Episode 4 ‘Stress’, featuring Miranda Hart:
Prod: Avalon Television Arlo
Dir: Alex Hardcastle, Nick Wood
Writer: Lee Mack, Andrew Collins
Cast: Lee Mack, Megan Dodds, Tim Vine, Miranda Hart
Time: 30 min x 6
Country: United Kingdom
Network: BBC One