At 10:30pm on Thursday, as the credits rolled on the first episode of BBC3’s new sitcom Way to Go, I was forced to swallow some humble pie. Actually, that’s a lie: a mere five minutes into the premier episode, I had to swallow a slice as I could tell that it was going to be a great show which would prove my preconceptions to be unfounded.
‘IT HAS A WARMTH AND CHARM WHICH BRINGS OUT ITS HUMOUR BEAUTIFULLY’
Way to Go centres around three mates who choose to help out an elderly, terminally-ill man by assisting him in committing suicide. ‘Well that doesn’t sound very funny,’ you may be thinking – and quite rightly, too. Euthanasia doesn’t exactly scream hilarity and neither, to be fair, does Way to Go but it definitely has a warmth and charm which brings out its humour beautifully.
I, like a lot of people (most notably, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard), unfairly prejudged this sitcom (starring The Inbetweeners’ Blake Harrison and Nativity!’s Marc Wootton). In fact, when speaking on my YouTube channel about its launch, before having actually watched any clips, I said, ‘I do see where he [Pritchard] is coming from. This doesn’t seem very tasteful.’ In truth, ‘taste’ wasn’t an issue at all – I did not question the suitability of euthanasia for a sitcom throughout the time that I watched Way to Go, and surely that can only be a positive sign?
In my premature critique, I also rubbished the ‘assisted suicide machine’ element (stating that it conjured up images in my mind of some elaborate sci-fi farce) but even that wasn’t presented as over-the-top – it was in actual fact an integral part of the show.
‘A FINE PROGRAMME’
Somehow, writer and creator Ben Kushell has managed to prove me wrong and produce a fine programme. You can understand the temptation which must have faced him to simply create a show such as this with either no compassion at all or an over-compensating abundance of it but he seems to have got it just about right. For example, the scene in which a stressed-out Scott gave into temptation and smoked dope with his aforementioned neighbour could have been insensitive and callous but transpired to be oddly touching.
‘FLAWED BUT ULTIMATELY LIKEABLE CHARACTERS’
One of the keys to Way to Go (along with, of course, the niche of its subject matter) is its flawed but ultimately likeable characters. We have Scott (Harrison) – a harmless, put-upon do-gooder (hence why he agrees to euthanising his neighbour) who works as a receptionist in a twenty-four hour veterinary practice. Next, there’s Scott’s half-brother Joey (Ben Heathcote) – an exercise instructor for OAPs who is being chased to repay his gambling debts by local hard men. And finally, completing the trio, we come to Cozzo (Wootton) – a (slightly crude and tactless) dad-to-be who is far from the voice of reason in the group. Flawed but oddly loveable characters are a staple of any good sitcom (Basil Fawlty, Del Boy, Jim Royle, Victor Meldrew – need I go on?) so it’s reassuring to see that Kushell hasn’t strayed too far from comedy convention.
WARNING! SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MY OWN PLAY ALERT!
Way to Go has the near-the-knuckle edge and wit of your typical BBC3 sitcom but also blends a somewhat unexpected sweetness which isn’t quite touching on Gavin & Stacey territory but is undeniably present within the half-hour. I recently wrote a short play about euthanasia but didn’t dare try to directly deal with it comically. Kushell, however, has and his pitching of it is such that it works well onscreen.
So, despite it receiving lukewarm reviews (mine’s certainly the most positive I’ve read – you’re welcome, BBC3), I would definitely urge you to at the very least give it a go – it may not be to your taste but it’s worth watching. After all, I originally panned it and now enthuse about it!
Way to Go is on BBC3, Thursdays at 10pm
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