And another recommendation which Sleepers inspired me to write.
Manchild follows the exploits of a group of four male wealthy friends, some of whom have known each other since childhood. Three of them are single or divorced and their age makes them midlife crisis material.
Manchild ran for two seasons, each about 7 or 8 episodes long, as is usually the case with these BBC comedy series. Unfortunately, season 2 has never been made available on DVD, so I have never seen it, and my recommendation and review is therefore solely based on my knowledge of season 1.
[[Most BBC shows run only for one or two seasons, no matter how successful they are (think Fawlty Towers, Extras, etc.), due to a number of circumstances, and because of a lack of need on parts of the BBC to milk each cash-cow to death. Rumour has it, that in the case of Manchild another, unexpected factor became involved: gender.
The BBC (financed by all of Britain via the licence fee) tries to spend money equally on projects appealing to different demographics. For example, one reason why BBC crime dramas take place in so many different regions – from the Cotswolds, to Oxford, Manchester, and up to Edinburgh – is that these regions feel represented.
Manchild was hailed by critics (rightly or wrongly) as “Sex and the City for men”. And the BBCs intent in producing this show was to create content for male audiences. As it turned out, the show was not only highly successful, it was also primarily being watched by women. So the BBC had to cancel it in order to put the money into another “male” project.
As I said: just rumours. But it does not sound all that far fetched.]]
Of the three shows I have recommended so far (Sleepers; The Invisibles; Manchild), Manchild has by far the best script: plots, dialogue, and all.
The interaction between the leading actors also seems superior in Manchild, but that may also mainly be down to the superior writing.
Like Sleepers, Manchild stars Nigel Havers. And like The Invisibles, it stars the great Anthony Stewart Head. It also stars Don Warrington, star of Rising Damp, whom international audiences may best know from Death in Paradise. The lead quartet is completed by Ray Burdis who as the only “attached” member of the gang gives are very convincing performance as the henpecked husband.
In fact, one should not only laud the writers and the cast, but also the people in charge of the casting, as each of these actors are perfect for their respective roles.
As the series progresses, each of our protagonists is faced with difficulties of middle aged life, some tiny, some huge. And we are in a front row seat as they struggle to overcome these difficulties, either alone or supported by the rest of the gang. As many a middle aged man, they make the occasional stupid decision along the way; the difference is that, as they are obscenely wealthy, some of their stupid decisions are on a different scale – such as buying a river, for example.
Without wanting to sound over-enthusiastic, I cannot recommend this show highly enough.
I have already listed all its strengths, and let me just add that I cannot think of any weaknesses, save for the fact that from time to time the writers try to tackle issues that may just be too big for a 30 minute comedy episode.
Season 1 is available both in Region Code 1 as well in Region Code 2 box sets. Just make sure you do not pay over-inflated prices.
Season 2 has to my knowledge never been published on DVD.
Trivia: Someone tried to re-make this as a US comedy series in 2007, starring Kevin Smith among others. That show never made it beyond its pilot episode.