From writers Amy Shindler (My Family) and Beth Chalmers (Threesome) comes ITV’s latest comedy: Pat & Cabbage, a series about two women who are hell-bent on growing old disgracefully.
With Pat’s husband having recently died and (the bizarrely named) Cabbage becoming divorced, both women are newly single and determined to exploit this status as they immerse themselves in many a caper, all the while trying to keep their home lives running smoothly.
MISSING THE MARK
Since the BAFTA-winning Last Tango in Halifax, there has been a yearning for programmes about sixty- and seventy-somethings trying to recapture the freedom and folly of their youth. Sally Wainwright did it brilliantly with Last Tango (a second series of which is on its way) but, if this first episode is anything to go by, Shindler and Chalmers have just missed the mark.
It was quite sweet and cheerful (even Nicola’s tales of a lonely childhood couldn’t lessen the mood) but was unfortunately lacking in laughs. I faintly smiled at the final scene in Michael’s driveway but other than that was unimpressed with Pat & Cabbage, and how it failed to live up to its hype.
What I was even more unimpressed by, however, was the brief insulting of the viewer’s intelligence by the writers. Now I have to say that this is only a minor thing, and if you watched Pat & Cabbage, you’ll probably hardly even remember it happening, but it is a bit of a bugbear of mine, and when else will I get the opportunity to voice it? (Unless I am one day a guest on Room 101, of course.) So bear with me. This insult of viewers’ intelligence concerns technology, and how many writers – not just Shindler and Chalmers – think that they can have mobile phones and computers do whatever the hell they like, the thought clearly being that technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that surely they cannot be far wrong. Well they more often than not are wrong. Within the first ten minutes of this episode we saw Cabbage take Pat’s phone from her, enter her friend Michael’s name into Google and, hey presto, instantly be given his details, including his profession. And then she clicks the wrong thing on the results page and accidentally ends up calling Michael himself. Whoops! Do writers really think that viewers are going to buy a plot like that? I mean I’ve heard of narrative license but that’s something else!
I will now step off of my soapbox. Thank you.
Another reason why I found Pat & Cabbage disappointing was the almost complete lack of characterisation. With the possible exception of Helen and Nicole (one of whom was a fun-seeker, the other a loner), none of the characters here had anything particularly unique about them. If I wasn’t able to differentiate between Barbara Flynn and Cherie Lunghi, I think I would have often forgotten which one was Pat and which one was Cabbage! There was just nothing engaging about the characters. It would have been bad enough not to have the supporting cast developed, but for the two leads not to be either was very disheartening. Or are we to believe that their mischievousness is the only aspect to them?
Perhaps Pat & Cabbage simply suffered from a touch of ‘First Episode Syndrome’ – that fiendish problem with which a lot of new shows battle as they try to bed in characters and situations, without giving much thought to the actual comedy. But then the majority of Twitter users seemed to like it, so Shindler and Chalmers have clearly done something right. I’m just afraid there’ll have to be an improvement in the second episode before I find out what that ‘something’ is.
Images courtesy of Rachel Joseph, ©ITV
Pat & Cabbage is on Thursdays at 8:30pm on ITV
What did you think of Pat & Cabbage? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.
You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.