"Turn the unemployed into the funemployed" is the motto that kicks off ITV's new sitcom The Job Lot, which sees him from Him & Her (Russell Tovey) and her from Miranda (Sarah Hadland) join forces. The Job Lot is an observational comedy set in a Midlands Job Centre.
Russell Tovey plays Karl who during the opening episode we see tell an unemployed member of the public that he "feels like a failure", bang his head on the phone, draw a bum on a whiteboard with a permanent marker and tell a Job Centre full of people that they can stick his job where "the squirrel keeps his conkers".
Just your average office worker then. Shame it's his job to motivate others into work though. At least he has his biscuits to keep him calm, a whole drawer full in fact.
His attitude soon changes thought the second he walks outside and bumps into Chloe, who happens to be a very attractive temp, played by Emma Rigby and is over the moon when Trish asks him to take her under his wing.Trish is Karl's manager at the Job Centre, and is played by Sarah Hadland.
Trish describes Karl as "an absolute star" and before too long Karl has agreed to go to dinner with Trish. In her eyes this is a date, in his eyes this most certainly is not. However who is he to say no? After all she has just been through a catastrophic breakdown and one small thing can just tip her over the edge. Which leads us nicely onto our next character, Angela.
Angela is played by Jo Enright (Life's Too Short) and is perhaps the most comical character in the show, but most certainly not one anyone would like to work with. She does what she's made to do and not a second more, nor does she bend the rules easily as we see in Episode One where she spends the whole episode getting a poor guy to make endless phone calls, fill out endless forms, and well, I don't want to give away the ending but I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear the guy doesn't actually get anywhere.
Right from the very start we get a sense of just what kind of character Angela is, from starting work at 9 and not 'nearly 9', (although leaving work at 'nearly 5' is fine) to cutting a block of cheese on her desk with a pair of scissors. There's also the tension looming between Angela and Trish, because she was sacked by Trish a few months ago but won an employment tribunal which meant she could return to work, and in doing so, can pretty much do what she pleases.
When I went along to a Q&A for The Job Lot in March with two of the three writers Claire Downes & Ian Jarvis as well as two of the show's cast, Russell Tovey & Sarah Hadland. As well as the revelation that The Job Lot was written and intended for BBC Three and a BBC Three audience, another thing that stuck with me was how they wanted this to be an ensemble piece and didn't want it to be just about the main characters. I think this is clear to see, because as well as Karl and Trish, who I guess you would call the main characters, the piece allows the other cast members to shine, as I've proven when I've said that Angela is perhaps the most comical character of the lot.
Also turning up, towards the end of Episode One is Danielle played by Tamla Kari (The Inbetweeners Movie), who has just had a baby and is looking to come back to work early and show off her new and improved post-baby boobs.
Then there's George, played by Adeel Akhtar (Utopia), who really comes into his own in Episode Two when in his role as Fraud Officer goes undercover to trap a man who's signing on and working as a decorator.
During the Q&A, the writers made it very clear that they were careful not to write characters that were 'stereotypically Job Centre', which brings us on to our unemployed regulars, Bryony and Graham played by Sophie McShera (Downton Abbey) and Tony Maudsley (Benidorm) who I suspect week in week out will be coming in asking for their dole money, whilst pretending to be looking for a job. Even at the mere mention of a job Bryony goes all funny turns down a job at Upper Crust because she's wheat intolerant and a job in Argos because she has, and I quote, "a thing for little pens".
Completing the cast iare Janette and Paul, the Job Centre's security guards, played by Angela Curran (This Is Jinsy) and Martin Marquez (Hotel Babylon). In Episode One we find out that Paul is running a carpet fitting company from the Job Centre and takes things a little bit too seriously during an improv session later on in the episode.
Ever wondered what embarrassing jobs Sarah Hadland and Russell Tovey had before making the big time? Well, luckily at the Q&A all was revealed. Sarah revealed that she had been a Magician's Assistant on a cruise ship whilst Russell told of the time he was a hairdresser's junior having to wash people's... wigs!
So back to the sitcom, all in all I was really pleased with The Job Lot and look forward to seeing more episodes and as with any sitcom, the more you know the characters, the more you can enjoy the show. I'm pleased that ITV are pumping out more comedy, sure, not all of them will work but I think this one does.