Two married comedians do scripted reality. Sounds like a treat. Who better to send up the sort of bilge they broadcast on ITV Be than two nimble wits?
The Richardsons are Jon Richardson (froggy northern accent, schoolboy looks, a regular on the panel shows) and his wife Lucy Beaumont (lesser-known, blonde and adorable, cuddly northern accent), and they let us peek into their lives near chocolate-boxy Hebden Bridge with daughter Elsie, three.
Unfortunately they’re not interested in unravelling the format; they settle for occupying it, although playing hammier versions of themselves.
This is Beaumont’s baby. She wrote it with Tim Reid, who did the first series of Car Share with Peter Kay. She insists in the programme notes that she has based everything on real-life events and says it all came about after the couple bickered charmingly on Channel 4’s Married to a Celebrity, and someone said they had sitcom potential.
Things aren’t equal, though. Richardson is very much the star of his wife’s show and all she can do is gently rib him. In a deceptively sweet voiceover she introduces him as Britain’s “third favourite comedian”, best-known for his anagrams on Celebrity Countdown and veganism. There’s a bone (celery stick) of contention there, like when she tells us he spent a year creating his own pub in the back garden, “but had no time to hang up the pictures in the living room”.
Richardson is developing a paunch and little moobs and happily plays up the side of him that is already slightly weary of family life and insecure about his career. He drives to a lay-by in the countryside to seek reassurance from his agent, who cruelly plays her other clients — Alan Carr, Romesh Ranganathan — off against one another.
The cameos, celebrity or otherwise, are a lot of the fun. Rob Beckett, another co-client, appears as Richardson’s career nemesis, while veteran comic Bernie Clifton is a friend of Beaumont’s family, who doesn’t rate Richardson as a husband or his ability to transform into a monkey for Elsie’s birthday party (Clifton was famous for his Oswald the Ostrich routines in the Seventies). Beaumont’s mum is deliciously nutty.
Like a true gent (or harried husband?), Richardson largely leaves his wife to her mischief, though in the tartest and perhaps an unscripted sequence, she suggests she has considered divorcing him, but “you know, Jon’s got money”. “You’d get half. There’s a financial incentive for leaving me,” he explains. Think he won that one.
So everything’s sort-of real. A joke, but not. It’s not very different from their stand-up, which involves elevating mundane life-details into jokes. The trouble is they’re not very interesting people and writ large, in a half-hour episode set in and around their home, the mundane largely plods.
Not that this is an excuse to be boring. Look at Car Share, which ripped along despite being about almost nothing and filmed in a Fiat. I suspect this show might have fizzed if the couple had improvised more and plotted less heavily. Perhaps they were worried about cutting too close to the bone.
And therein lies the entertainment: imagining the fine line they are treading trying to reveal just enough. I doubt very much they’ll suffer the same fate as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman after Eyes Wide Shut by the end of the series, or even the next — especially if they capitalise on Elsie’s comic timing.
Meet The Richardsons is on Dave tonight at 10pm