2011-01-01 Entry: "2point4 Children - "Leader Of The Pack""
And we're off with a BBC comedy from 1991.
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
So we open on two people in bed, although the woman is in something of a panic because it's Tuesday, and she has to chase the bin-men down the street as she's forgotten to put the rubbish out. Unfornately, plan B of putting it in someone else's dustbin doesn't exactly work when the owner comes out and mistakes her for a bin-man, giving her 3 bags of rubbish instead of just the one.
The woman is Bill, a put-upon mother of two, married to Ben, a plumber. The two children are Jenny, the sulky teenager, and David, the bratty younger child. Bill's best friend, Rona, is characterised as a man-chaser desperate for a baby.
The main plotlines of the episode involve Jenny skipping school to see her boyfriend, Ben having to perform a boiler repair but mainly sitting around winding up the owner while waiting for his assistant to find out parts are out of stock (and then going to a pub), Rona going to bars to pick up men, and a mystery motorcyclist that Bill keeps running into (literally) who tempts her with memories of when there was more passion in her relationship with Ben.
It's a reasonably brief introduction to the dynamics, but it gets the basics across quickly, and manages to be funny even if the situations are ones encountered a million times. Belinda Lang as Bill clearly has the most to do in this episode, carrying all the storylines to one degree or another, while Gary Olsen's Ben only gets a couple of scenes. Clare Woodgate as Jenny is extremely grating (although this might be the material), while John Pickard as David and Julia Hills as Rona are so thinly drawn they're almost caricatures, there just to drive the occasional joke.
The show itself ran for 8 seasons, although, considering this is a BBC show, that doesn't necessarily reflect on quality as they keep filming comedies well after they've become tired and repetitive. There's one cast change in the run (Clare Buckfield taking over the role of Jenny from series 3) although at present, I can't recall how much difference this really makes (other than hair colour). There are a couple of excellent later episodes involving Roger Lloyd-Pack (Trigger from Only Fools and Horses) as rival plumber Jake Klinger, and I have fond memories of the Christmas specials (mainly for the song-and-dance numbers at the end). However, this pilot doesn't really make me want to track them all down and rewatch them...