Finally, it arrived on Tuesday! The last episode of Sky Living’s “comedy” Gates. After what I would politely describe as hit/miss episodes, did this last one offer any improvement and leave us on an at least partial high? No. Not in the slightest.
‘IMMATURE AND GROSSLY OVER-THE-TOP’
Of course, I don’t know whether you read my review of episode 1.1 a few weeks ago, but if you did you’ll have noticed that I particularly took umbrage to Joanna Page playing what is – let’s face it – a terrible character in this show. In the opening episode, Helen really was unbelievably annoying! However, in its successors, the character did mellow. She became more real, and I found that even I – a male teenager – was able to relate to her. Most importantly, she become more enjoyable.
I’m afraid in this concluder, though, she was far from this and tragically reverted to her old ways. The bottom line is that Joanna Page – while an excellent actress – has accepted the offer to play an immature and grossly over-the-top mother, who no one can relate to. Page has played down-to-earth characters before – just take her most famous role as the female lead in Gavin & Stacey! They don’t really come more down-to-earth than Stace, do they? More recently, I absolutely loved her in the brilliant The Syndicate, in which she played harassed and struggling single mother Leanne. At a push, I would say that she played a loveable part in Love Actually (despite it being Judy – a body double for movie sex scenes).
I can totally understand Joanna wanting to move away from the ‘Stacey’ image: she doesn’t want to be playing dizzy Welshwomen for the rest of her career, does she? Therefore, she took a bit of a risk by opting to play Helen and it’s a risk that, in my view at least, didn’t pay off. It was nothing to do with her performance – as I said, she’s a great actress – but it was the writing. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic for mothers to sit down and watch Gates, being able to relate to the hectic lifestyle Helen leads – juggling motherhood with being a wife and career woman? Everyone knows that people love to watch shows with characters in them with whom they can identify. Gates was the perfect opportunity for this to happen, but the writers failed to fulfil it. Sad really, isn’t it?
Hopefully, Joanna won’t act the same as her Helen did, having recently announced that her and husband James Thornton are to have a baby. Congrats!
It wouldn’t have been as bad if some of the other adult characters had been good enough to redeem the show but they weren’t. If anything, the kids were the ones with whom it was easier to identify that, and I’m sure that’s true for everyone – not just me.
The headmaster – Mr. Gould – in Gates is quite similar to that in Bad Education. However, the difference between Gould and Bad Ed‘s Fraser is that Fraser is funny. Gould is merely forgettable.
‘OUT OF PLACE’
This week, the writers at least attempted to do what seems to be customary for almost all sitcoms nowadays: go all sentimental on us for the last episode of the series. Most shows pull it off. Gates didn’t.
The vehicle for sentimentality this time was Miss Hunter’s sub-plot, in which she had to decide whether she wanted to carry on teaching or retire, having been angered by the modern complexities in the profession. Far from fulfilling its purpose, this poignancy just seemed out of place. Although Sue Johnston did a really good job performing the scenes, just like with Joanna Page as Helen, the script let her down. The freeze frame in particular, showing Hunter standing in the corridor looking deep-in-thought while pupils came and went around her, was undoubtedly out-of-place. If the series as a whole was unrealistic and depicted the absurd, why would I as a viewer emotionally invest in Miss Hunter’s problem? It was just shoehorned in.
I wanted to like Gates – its cast was brilliant, comprising of the aforementioned Page and Johnston, as well as Tom Ellis and Ella Kenion, to name just a few. And that’s not to mention the kids! They did so well and I’m sure, like Outnumbered‘s Daniel Roche (Ben) and Ramona Marquez (Karen) have brilliantly long and prosperous careers ahead of them. However, if you wanted a funny or even remotely believable storyline, Sky Living on a Tuesday at 8:30pm was not the place to be. And with news of this being remade for American audiences, I do worry. The Inbetweeners is one of the most popular – if not the most popular – sitcoms to come out of Britain in the last decade at least and that doesn’t seem to be doing very well across the pond at the moment. Does Gates stand a chance, in that case? I wish it luck, but I very much doubt it.
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