Stuck, review: this mini-sitcom about a bickering couple feels very real – but is really lacking in laughs
It has been a very long time – nearly 20 years, in fact – since the end of Black Books, which made a TV star of Dylan Moran. The show inspired a cult following, and emerged during a golden age of British sitcoms in the early 2000s: The Office, Peep Show, Green Wing, Phoenix Nights all hail from the same era. So hopes were high for Moran’s new offering, Stuck (BBC Two).
The show is not in Black Books’ league. If you laugh more than once an episode, you’re doing well, although to be fair the episodes are only 15 minutes long. But perhaps we’re not supposed to be laughing, just smiling every now and again in recognition. Stuck is about a relationship, and happens to have two comic actors in the lead roles. Moran and Morgana Robinson play Dan and Carla. He is in advertising – until he gets fired in the first episode – and she has a job I couldn’t quite work out, and they cohabit in a slightly shambolic fashion. Sometimes they get stoned, dress up in beige trench coats and try to shoplift from the pretentious local deli, just to amuse themselves.
Dan worries about being jobless and having moobs. Every now and again, his dry humour gives way to something more melancholy, as when he pleads with his doctor friend for a prescription of tranquilisers. Moran created the series, and has given more layers to his character than to Carla, who is a lighter presence. Nothing happens, which I suppose is the essence of all sitcoms, but even in 15 minutes you wish something would. The only thing in its favour is the chemistry between Moran and Robinson is terrific. They’re so convincing as a couple that I did a quick Google check to see if they’re a couple in real life (they’re not).
Moran could have wrung bigger laughs out of a bickering couple whose relationship is falling apart, but he’s done the more challenging thing of creating two characters who love each other. They have little routines and in-jokes. They feel real. That is the only thing that may keep you watching; that, and the occasional flight of fancy from Moran that reminds you of better shows. “Do you love me?” asks Carla. Dan: “Uncontrollably. In great rollicking spasms. Like the sea. Or pigs waking up.”