From one of the stars of Channel 4’s The Last Leg comes eponymous new sitcom, Josh, focusing on, alongside Josh himself, his flatmates, Owen and Kate (Beattie Edmondson), and their rather odd landlord, Geoff. A premise of three unlucky-in-love friends who often have to deal with with their interfering landlord is typical sitcom fodder, and the script transpired to be, too – leading to what I found to be a rather dire thirty minutes.
One look at the credits would have told you that this had the makings of a good sitcom; as well as Josh Widdicombe himself, the cast was also comprised of Radio 4 regular, Elis James (Owen), and the ever-reliable Jack Dee (Geoff). The series has been directed by David Schneider – whose face you’ve almost certainly seen if you’ve watched any sitcom since the 90s – and can boast that its Executive Producer is Stephen McCrum, the man who was responsible for bringing Mrs Brown’s Boys to the BBC (whether or not you think that that is something to ‘boast’ about is, of course, down to you). So, Josh has numerous established, successful comedy names working both on- and off-screen. That begs the question, therefore, why on earth did it fall so flat? The answer appears to be quite simple: the script wasn’t of the quality that it should have been. This was the implication within the twenty seconds of this episode, when a vignette clearly designed to establish Josh and Owen’s statuses as ‘unlucky with the ladies’ ended with a predictable whimper, and set the tone for the subsequent twenty eight minutes.
It wasn’t just the jokes – or apparent lack thereof – that resulted in the show failing to meet many fans’ expectations, however; I found that ‘Fictional Josh’s’ remarkable similarity to ‘Real Josh’ was an irritating distraction from the beginning. In the BBC’s press release, ‘Fictional Josh’ is described as a ‘baby-faced Victor Meldrew,’ which is annoying for two reasons: firstly, David Renwick’s scripts were funny; and secondly, a ‘baby-faced Victor Meldrew’ is an incredibly apt description of Josh Widdicombe himself. There seems not to have been any distinction made between the character and the comedian, which gives the episode an air of being merely a stand-up routine about chlorine allergies, the annoyances of ‘reply all’ emails and the inability to swim, brought to life. Of course, it would be ridiculous for the two Joshes to be poles apart – but they shouldn’t be carbon copies of each other like this, either. Hence, they just need to be similar – it’s what’s necessary for the sitcom to feel like a sitcom. For instance, we all know that Miranda Hart is probably capable of walking down the street without falling over or making innuendo with a complete stranger, unlike ‘Fictional Miranda’, so we can set the two versions of her apart. Likewise, all fans of Not Going Out know perfectly well that Lee Mack isn’t a feckless layabout – despite what we see of ‘Fictional Lee’. Josh Widdicombe taking his awkward, pedantic, quietly irritated stage persona and creating an awkward, pedantic, quietly irritated character called Josh, however, just didn’t seem to work.
Having not seen last year’s iPlayer short that acted as a springboard for this series, I was really looking forward to Josh, but have been left disappointed by the opening episode. Josh himself is genuinely a great comedian – as both a writer and performer – and it is likely that this reputation led to high expectations, and the show not hitting the mark. He had the potential to make the stand-up-to-sitcom transition as smoothly as Lee Mack, Nick Helm or even Josh star, Jack Dee himself – but, if we’re to judge the series based on this opening episode, it appears that he has not managed it.
Image credit: Thanks to Des Willie, ©BBC
Josh is on Wednesdays at 10:30pm on BBC3
What did you think of Josh? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer