Back in 2012, Sir David Jason opined, ‘I think [sitcom writers] haven’t been catering enough for families in general. And I think the BBC have taken that on board and are trying to redress the balance.’ This was perhaps the most notable of a long line of cries for a return to so-called ‘family-friendly’ comedy. Inoffensive comedy. Comedy that doesn’t push boundaries. And the BBC have indeed been producing that a lot since Sir David’s call for it. We’ve seen the arrival of Big School, Still Open All Hours and Count Arthur Strong, all of which have been received warmly by viewers, if not always by critics, and proven that there is indeed still a market for ‘family-friendly’ comedy, if it’s funny. However, there have also been the less successful programmes; the ones that have died a slow, painful death in the make-or-break 10:35pm slot. I’m thinking of The Wright Way, Father Figure and all three of the 2014 Comedy Playhouse pilots – one of which, unsurprisingly, was Mountain Goats.
Originating as Miller’s Mountain during last year’s rather anticlimactic revival of the BBC’s legendary Comedy Playhouse strand, this series follows a team of mountain rescue volunteers in the Scottish Highlands who, when they’re not going to the aid of other people, are drinking copious amounts of alcohol in the local pub, trying to find a home for themselves or desperately escaping their overbearing mother’s advances. Hilarity ensues. One would find it difficult to believe that this is a million miles away from what Sir David had in mind when talking about the BBC ‘catering for families’.
The sad thing is, I simply don’t find Mountain Goats funny – and please don’t think that I’m being disingenuous when I say that that’s ‘sad’. I genuinely want to like sitcoms such as this. The trouble is, nowadays people are all too ready to turn their noses up at such traditional, studio-based comedy – they dismiss it without giving it a fair go – so, not wanting to jump on that bandwagon, I was desperate to unearth the funny in Mountain Goats but I failed to find it simply because it failed to deliver it. In fact, not even appearances from Doon Mackichan and My Mad Fat Diary’s Sharon Rooney (pictured, left) brought it salvation.
Usually in a sitcom, there’s a sign of promise – perhaps a gag or trait of one of the characters that represents a glimmer of hope for the show – but in Mountain Goats I genuinely struggled to find one. To be frank, I think the problem is that it’s just too bland; there’s nothing in it to suggest that it warranted being commissioned. The larger-than-life characters and subtle-as-a-brick gags may have looked good on paper but in actuality were unoriginal, uninteresting and, ultimately, unfunny.
While a quick look at Twitter will tell you that some people did in fact like Mountain Goats, it will also tell you that I’m in the majority by having not enjoyed it. For the half-an-hour that I spent watching it, I just couldn’t stop thinking about two things: firstly, why writer Donald McLeary hadn’t learned from the numerous mistakes he made in the pilot last year and see this, quite unbelievable, shot at a series as an opportunity to rectify them; and secondly, why at a time when great shows such as The Walshes, Hebburn and Getting On are being axed, things like this are being made.
All images thanks to BBC Pictures and Alan Peebles, ©BBC
Mountain Goats is on Fridays at 10:35pm on BBC1
What did you think of Mountain Goats? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer