In the last few days review writers have laid into Ben Elton as if he had become the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells himself.
In actual fact he has just written a new sitcom, “The Wright Way”, his first in years. A sitcom that would have been well received coming from any other writer, but because it comes from Ben Elton it will never be good enough. People keep wanting him to come up with instant new “Young Ones” and “Blackadder” material. But checking his history, this was never what Elton truly wanted he wanted to write old fashioned sitcoms in the style of “Dad’s Army”, and landed into the alternative scene by accident. His move into doing what he wanted – creating “The Thin Blue Line” and writing lyrics for musicals has been the cause for much criticism, saying he’s sold out. Is doing what you love to do selling out these days? I always thought the reaction was over the top, and rather pathetic. Especially as it has been going on for the last 15 years.
It looks as if the TV reviewers went into the series wanting to hate it, because when judging “The Wright Way” solely on it’s writing it’s simply a rather amusing show. It’s the kind of light hearted family sitcom that you’d watch on a Sunday afternoon – (so why the BBC put it at 10:30 PM is beyond me.) Gerald Wright (David Haig) is a good parody of the usual ranting Daily Mail reader, whom, with his group of health and safety officers actually gets off on rules and regulations. A nod to the way the Government (and many advisors) act these days: the nanny state.
On the other end of the spectrum is Wright’s daughter Susan, who is an out and proud lesbian. She still lives at home with her father, together with her steady girlfriend Victoria.
And here is where it gets interesting: in all the anger lashed out at Elton, people have failed to notice that the writer has actually created a first for Prime Time BBC TV: a young fun, happy, likable lesbian couple who are not damaged, who are not sex crazed, and who have the upper hand in the relationship with the conservative father. They have been written as normal characters and this is very rare.
The main problem with the show seems the fact that it looks like it was written for Rowan Atkinson: the name of the character itself is a running Atkinson joke. More importantly the script was full of word and physical jokes only Atkinson can truly pull off (the first sink scene was so clearly written for Rowan they might as well have inserted a scene from Mr Bean.) It left poor David Haig giving his all, but never truly getting the scenes done the way it was meant to be.
Meanwhile Mina Anwar seems to be overdoing it in her role, while Beattie Edmondson seems to be channelling Miranda Hart a little too much (odd when your mother is Jennifer Saunders.) But despite these minor problems, it is still a good show – as long as you watch it for light-hearted fun and are not hoping for a new “Blackadder”.