Back is the sort of thing I like in TV and films – when actors/writers, who have brought you something you’ve enjoyed, get back together for something new. You know they can’t retread old ground with their best-known work, so the answer is for the same people to do something new.
Okay, so both David Mitchell and Robert Webb have joined forces many times, not only for Peep Show‘s 9 series, but also Ambassadors, That Mitchell and Webb Sound and That Mitchell and Webb Look, the latter being the TV equivalent of their – better for me – radio show.
Stephen’s (Mitchell) father, Laurie, has died. The man was considered a local legend, yet his son failed to see things that way as he’s very down-at-heel and a man for whom things never go his way (so, very Mark Corrigan from Peep Show, then). For example, he didn’t get to see his father when he died as he was stuck in a queue at the ‘Cash and Carry’. Like Mark, he’s also very practical, for example, when buying food for the wake, he gets the sausages which are one step up from the economy range.
Andrew (Webb) comes into the proceedings, as he’s one of a great number of foster children the family homed, but even though he stayed with them for just a few few months in 1987, he ingratiates himself back into the fold as if he’s known them intimately all these years since, although as the quip comes from Stephen, “There were so many foster children, I lost track… like the Sugababes”.
Andrew talks the talk to make his achievements sound much bigger than they are… boasting big-time, in fact. It’s like he’s the perfect man who’s had the perfect life (very much how we were described Richard Stone in the ’90s US sitcom Dream On, even though we never saw his face, nor hear him speak, so had to rely on what others said), making you wonder if he is really all he seems?
With the cast also including Louise Brealey as Stephen’s sister, Cass, The Thick Of It‘s Olivia Poulet as his ex-girlfriend Alison, and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy‘s (radio version) Geoffrey McGivern as Laurie’s inappropriate-in-tone brother, Geoff who, when at a time as everyone’s concerned that Stephen hasn’t been to see his father’s body at the mortuary and how he must say ‘goodbye’ to him before the funeral, he learns Geoff has consulted everyone including a local phone-in, must to Stephen’s disgust leading Geoff to observe: “Love a phone-in! Don’t know what I’d do without phone-ins …and Pornhub.”
Cue lots of improbable situations, plus a ton of very sharp and very dry humour leading to a number of great big laughs, and plenty of unresolved issues from Stephen’s imperfect relationship with his father, I’ll restrain from detailing too much more of this, save for one scene where his mother meets a priest, and thinks all her sins will be forgiven if she gets baptised, and that her non-baptised late husband will be burning in hell for all eternity.
Stephen: “Don’t upset yourself. His remains are rotting away in a wicker casket.”
Based on the first two episodes, it looks like each one will have its own closing song, the lyrics for which are specifically chosen to match a scene in the episode you’ve just watched.
Plus, episode 2 even has a ‘door opening’ sound effect which I only recently mentioned as having heard again on the Ronin Special Edition Blu-ray, as you heard it all the time around the late ’90s and early ’00s… and still now, it appears. If sound can ‘appear’.
With bonus points for the ‘Wilf Lunn contraption’ reference – for anyone born in the ’70s, overall, Back feels the same but different… if that makes sense. You can’t keep doing the same thing forever, and Series 9 of Peep Show neatly wrapped up some loose ends, anyway. However, if you loved that, you’ll love this.
End of series update: I was blown away by the entire series, and it leaves a door open for series 2. I can’t wait for it!
Back begins tomorrow on Channel 4 at 10pm, and once broadcast, each episode will be on All4, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. Click on the top-right image of Jalal for the full-size version.
Complete Series Score: 9/10
Director: Ben Palmer
Producer: Kate Daughton
Writer: Simon Blackwell
Music: Oli Julian
Stephen: David Mitchell
Andrew: Robert Webb
Cass: Louise Brealey
Ellen: Penny Downie
Jan: Jessica Gunning
Laurie: Matthew Holness
Mike: Oliver Maltman
Geoff: Geoffrey McGivern
Alison: Olivia Poulet
Tom: Michael Wildman
Nick Molloy: Tony Gardner
Sarah Giles: Emily Lloyd-Saini
Young Andrew: Caius Luckyn-Malone
Young Stephen: Sebastian Patterson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.