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I TALK Two Doors Down

Monday night saw the return of what I believe to be the most underrated sitcom on television... despite record ratings and two BAFTA Scotland wins!

Unashamedly entertaining, unapologetically funny and undeniably brilliant.

Whilst Mrs Brown's Boys continues to dominate the comedy available to watch over Christmas and New Year, the critical and often public reaction to the series will have you believe that there is no decent comedy left on television anymore. Which could not be further from the truth.

2018 was an outstanding year for comedy and whilst a lot of conversation and hype surrounded shows like Derry Girls, Inside No.9, Peter Kay's Car Share and This Country, no one seemed to be talking about Two Doors Down, a hidden gem amongst the BBC comedy schedules.

It's a genuinely funny and brilliantly brash Scottish sitcom, made by BBC Scotland which airs on BBC Two and in 2018 delivered record ratings for its third series as well as two BAFTA Scotland wins for Jonathan Watson and Elaine C Smith.

Written and created by Simon Carlyle (Boy Meets Girl) and Gregor Sharp, the series can be best described as a traditional studio sitcom, but without the live audience. Set in the fictional Latimer Crescent, the action almost always takes place in the front room and occasionally the kitchen, which is reminiscent of The Royle Family in that the characters rarely leave the front room or the sofa(s).

That front room and those sofas belong to Beth and Eric Baird, who always every time we meet them have their neighbours over eating their food, drinking their booze and chatting shit... as well as their son Ian and his boyfriend, Gordon. And it's brilliantly entertaining.

But a great comedy script can only go so far, it needs the right actors attached who are able to deliver the lines, nail that comic timing and embody that character. And boy has Two Doors Down found the perfect cast.

Arabella Weir, Alex Norton and Jamie Quinn keep the sanity as Beth, Eric and Ian Baird. Beth has time for everyone no matter how they treat her, Eric just wants peace and quiet (good luck with that!) and Ian is just an all round nice lad.

Bringing all the chaos is the chain-smoking, binge-drinking and shade-throwing Cathy Whyte, played by the irresistibly brilliant Doon Mackichan. She's married to Colin, played by Jonathan Watson, who is one of life's great braggers! No wonder him and Cathy get on so well.

Elaine C Smith, best-known for playing Mary in Rab C. Nesbitt puts in a superb performance as Christine. Foul-mouthed, overbearing and a grade A moaner, you can always rely on her for some cracking one-liners and genuine laugh out loud moments.

After being somewhat underused in series three, Kieran Hodgson is back as Gordon, after joining last year as Ian's new boyfriend. Also returning are new neighbours Alan and Michelle who we were introduced to at the end of series three and are played by Graeme Stevely and Joy McAvoy.

There have been some other cast changes along the way, with Sharon Rooney who played Christine's daughter Sophie and Harki Bhambra who played Ian's then boyfriend Jaz, both leaving at the end of series two.

The first episode of the new series Anniversary, continued what has been a constant run of great episodes - no apparent "fillers" as of yet. The episode saw Ian and Gordon throw Beth and Eric a surprise party to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Of course the guests are all the familiar faces we'd expect to see; Cathy and Colin, Alan and Michelle and Christine. Whilst the focus is on celebrating Beth and Eric's marriage, the episode (or should I say Cathy) questions why Alan hasn't asked Michelle to marry him yet and puts doubts over Ian and Gordon's relationship when the subject of marriage is brought up.

But never mind all that... Christine's brought a trifle! And it's "none of your shop bought pish". Elsewhere, Cathy and Colin reminisce on their eight, no sorry nine, years of marriage and Gordon's arranged a game of Mr & Mrs for Beth and Eric to play, which goes on for a little longer than they were all expecting.

I know sitcom episodes don't have winners, but if they did, Cathy would certainly win the first episode of series four with her odd crush on Ian's boyfriend - kissing him on the lips at any given opportunity, her constant shade-throwing and an epic first dance recreation that needs to be seen to be believed.

Honestly, watching Doon perform that routine is not only my favourite moment from that episode, but possibly my favourite moment from all episodes of Two Doors Down so far. And I can't really see them topping it.

That said, I'm waiting for a catfight between Cathy and Michelle. It's only a matter a time before Cathy's dislike (jealousy) for her new younger and better-looking neighbour spills over and she's pushed over the edge! It's got to happen.

So how does Two Doors Down do in the ratings? Very well actually. Whilst its largest overnight audience remains it's Hogmanay pilot which went out on BBC One on New Year's Eve in 2013, it's more accurate to look at how it's performed on BBC Two.

Series one launched just over two years later in April 2016 and averaged 1 million viewers per episode, before returning later that year with a slightly larger average audience of 1.1m. And after a bit of a dip in 2017 for its Christmas special (730,000), the series returned with its largest overnight audience on BBC Two to date, 1.81m resulting in a series average of 1.6m.

Sadly Monday's episode was watched by just over 1m people, which whilst lower than perhaps expected, is still a great number and higher than the latest series of Catastrophe launched with. That being said, it's not what it deserves, so c'mon people, let's get behind a decent comedy shall we?

It used to be that after a few runs, sitcoms would be adapted for the big screen, but the current trend seems to favour a stage show over a feature-length cinema release. Benidorm Live has been touring the UK since September, Only Fools and Horses The Musical launches in London's West End next month and Mrs Brown's Boys The Musical tours the UK from March.

So it's no surprise that the show's creator Simon Carlyle has already spoken of plans to turn Two Doors Down into a live stage show teasing the possibility of "a musical number from Christine" and "Alex as Eric flying around in his chair"!

Whatever the future holds for the series, one thing is for certain - in these times of trouble, doom and gloom, Two Doors Down is unashamedly entertaining, unapologetically funny and undeniably brilliant and the distraction we all so desperately need.

Two Doors Down continues Mondays at 10pm on BBC Two and all episodes including the Pilot are available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 11 months

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