By Ben Soton
Scarborough; BBC1 Friday 9.30pm. Written and directed by Darren Little. Starring: Stephanie Cole, Catherine Tyldesley, Jason Manford.
Although Scarborough is billed as a comedy, this new BBC1 30-minute sitcom feels more like a kitchen-sink drama. It’s written and directed by Darren Litten, the creator of Benidorm, who has a talent for generating comedy from everyday situations.
I will take this opportunity to tell Party members that my non-attendance at last year’s October Revolution Commemoration was due to my wife purchasing tickets for Benidorm at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre – sorry comrades but I hope to be there this year!
The main characters are an unmarried couple in their late 30s, Mike and Karen, who have a history, somehow drifted apart and now find themselves together. Karen, a hairdresser played by Katherine Tyldesley, spends much of her free time looking after her elderly mother, played by Stephanie Cole. Interestingly, Stephanie Cole, now aged 77. has been playing elderly characters for the last 30 years; it seems her age has finally caught up with the roles she plays. Mike, played by Jason Manford, works in an amusement arcade and has returned home from life in a band. In this day and age their situation is not unusual; a lifestyle once associated with 20-somethings is not untypical of those nearing 40.
The star of the show is the town itself, with panoramic views between scenes. I have often wondered how a resort on the edge of the North Sea has for the last 150 years or so been a major tourist destination. It has suffered as a result of cheap and accessible air travel; but concerns over climate change and the low value of the pound may provide new opportunities for Scarborough and places like it.
Scarborough was also one of the east coast towns that voted heavily for Brexit. This might be because the people of Scarborough are the bunch of stupid ignorant racists the Remainiacs would have us believe, or it may be the result of lack of job opportunities in the town combined with the declining fishing industry.
Some of these issues come across through the minor characters in the series. Lisa-Marie, a young woman who works in the same salon as Karen, shows her frustration at her lack of prospects and zero-hours contract by quitting the hair-salon; the only problem being other prospects in the town are limited.
More interestingly Mike shares a flat with his friend Bigsy, played by Steve Edge. Bigsy is a fantasist who claims to be some kind of secret agent. One of the sad truths about austerity Britain is the stigma of unemployment forcing its victims to concoct elaborate fantasies rather than admit to being out of work. On one level it may appear that Bigsy, who has trouble keeping up with the rent, is using Mike; is this relationship that straight forward however? Does Mike, who at least has a job, benefit from Bigsy who is able to make his life look successful.
With series one coming to an end I am hopeful of it not being the last. Scarborough is an example of what can be described as Comedy Realism. The show contains a combination of both factors in varying degrees. Meanwhile a show based around a location, as with Benidorm, enables it to continue for successive series even with different characters.