Bloods review – patchy paramedic comedy unlikely to split your sides
In this new comedy (Sky One), Maleek’s former paramedic partner Kevin has gone on sabbatical to Thailand. Maleek is supremely confident this has nothing to do with the fact he accidentally defibrillated Kevin on their last callout together, but then Maleek is supremely confident about most things. The brio and energy that Famalam’s Samson Kayo – who also co-created this series – brings to the role is a joy to behold. If it also manages to shock some underpowered writing into life along the way, that, too, is all to the good.
In Kevin’s absence, Maleek is paired with Wendy (Jane Horrocks). She is a perky, quirky paramedic from the north – or “Emmerdale”, as Maleek has it – recently divorced and on Tinder, hoping to start a new life in London. Think an older Bubble from Ab Fab, with a driving licence and graduation certificate. I find Horrocks’s perky, quirky shtick quite effortful and exhausting, but I am aware that I am in the minority. She is in the show a lot, and has to work hard in every moment of screen time, given some of the weakest lines and set-ups. (A lot of supposed hilarity revolves around her, an impossibly aged crone of 50-odd, having sex with new people and misusing the street slang she picks up from Maleek.)
After a perilously laugh-free opening episode (Kayo aside, who has funny in his bones) things begin to improve. This is thanks to some beautifully pitched secondary characters. There are Darrel and Darryl (Kevin Garry and Sam Campbell), the platonic ideal of paramedic partners now that Darrel has calmed “Hurricane” Darryl down (“Yoga,” he explains. “And we cut out dairy”). They resuscitate patients to George Ezra songs – “Give me a beat, Darryl” – and by the time pathologically ambitious Kareshma (Aasiya Shah) starts trying to drive a wedge between them in episode three, I found myself quite invested in their happiness.
Kareshma is keen to get off “the bunion bus” (transporting pensioners to health appointments) and has her eye on the unit boss Jo’s job. She may be on a hiding to nothing here, as Jo (Lucy Punch) is a competent “hub commander” when not smashing her head open on tarmac to impress her crush, motorbike paramedic Laurence (The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt), with her nonexistent kickboxing skills. Her vigorous attempts at flirting with this recently bereaved colleague – “What flavour’s your soup?” she asks him in the canteen, “cream of knobhead?” – and his wearily kind responses are nuggets of tragicomic perfection scattered throughout. Punch plays her not as a ditsy fool overcome in the moment, but as someone with cluelessness stamped through her like lettering through a stick of rock. And there is an increasingly rewarding running gag about the forgettability of stalwart unit member Gary (Adrian Scarborough – Gavin & Stacey’s Pete Sutcliffe). “Thank you, mysterious stranger,” Darryl says after Gary mends the damage done by Kareshma’s machiavellian interventions. “I helped you move!” replies Gary helplessly, to Darryl’s already retreating back.
We move through various adventures – major road traffic accidents, barbecue immolations – and non-adventures – Wendy and Maleek representing the ambulance service alongside the police (“filth”) and fire brigade (“hose muppets”) at a local community day. There are moments of growth and learning. Some are taken, mostly by Wendy. Some are not, mostly by Maleek – a man who never foresaw his terror of heights putting a spoke in the rotary blades of his ambition to become a helicopter ambulance pilot. But he and “Brookside” gradually learn to rub along together, even if they will never quite attain the synchronicity of hearts, minds and souls that Darryl and Darrel have – well, who among us ever will?
You are never in any danger of needing any stitches in sides split from laughing. But if (by halfway through, at least) Bloods remains patchily written, it is beginning to cohere and take on a charm and warmth that, with a bit of a punch-up to the script, could turn it into something well worth a weekly 22 minutes of your time. If Maleek, after all, can get his “lickle Heimlich ting” to work in front of an admiring audience, and Laurence can learn to laugh over a game of Jenga again, who’s to say what other pleasing outcomes life might have in store for us?