Back Series 2 is here, and it’s been a while since series 1 aired, but at the time, Andrew (Robert Webb) had ingratiated himself with everyone at the John Barleycorn pub, and pushing Stephen’s (David Mitchell) nose so far out of joint, that he was sleeping in the shed by the end of the first series.
Or it might even have been a wendy house… Quite frankly, as brilliant as the first series was, along with following on from their work together on Peep Show, in conjunction with Back’s creator/lead writer Simon Blackwell, it has been quite some time. Blackwell wrote some of the Peep Show episodes, whilst that comedy’s co-creator Jesse Armstrong wrote some of Back Series 1, yet that was broadcast ‘back’ in September 2017, and it’s now January 2021.
Clearly, Back Series 2 has been performed before the March 2020 lockdown. I forget exactly when it happened, but back in November 2020, there was a brilliant 45-minute Q&A online which was only available to journalists at the time, and I understand it will be made available for the public to watch. I do hope that is still the case because it was hilarious to watch.
As we get into this second series, the tables feel like they’ve turned, slightly, since Stephen has been in a wellness centre for the past few months, trying to get back to normality and looking all the better for it, while Andrew is looking put-upon, having to deal with the day-to-day drudgery of pub management… but give it time before he digs the knife in.
Initially, the series opener feels like a promo for Lilt, as everyone wants to drink it, but since such things aren’t allowed on British TV, they’re clearly spoofing a particular US sitcom I once saw a clip of (if anyone remembers it, please tell me and I’ll link it in the review) which promoted Cheerios endlessly, making it seem like a definite advert.
But they have bigger issues at hand, with the arrival of competition in the form of P:UB, an establishment with a pretentious menu, serving (and these are individual meals) Stonewalled fish… local curds… an egg… and… leaves. There’s speculation about whether Andrew will move on to there, leaving Steven to return to the JB.
However, despite getting out of the centre, the latter is still barking mad. David Mitchell is the most enjoyable of the pair (even though they both work together as well as on Peep Show), getting across the brilliant sarcasm from Stephen, such as “Never dream. Dreams aren’t real. Only nightmares.” and figuring out if the multiple of Cup-a-Soup is “Cup-a-Soups” or “Cups-a-Soup”?
Meanwhile, Stephen’s mum Ellen (Penny Downie) is sleeping with vicar Julian (John Macmillan), Cass (Louise Brealey) is embarking on life as a mature student, Stephen’s ex, Alison’s (Olivia Poulet) so busy, she “hasn’t got time to fart”, and Geoff’s (Geoff McGivern – Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy) about to have a marriage with a difference.
Every episode has its own focus, so the story arc is largely about how Stephen and Andrew will get on (I keep wanting to type Mark and Jez), but guest stars include Anthony Stewart Head as Charismatic Mike, in the second episode. Stephen and Andrew’s early conversations mostly take place in the men’s toilets, but before long, Andrew’s pissing off almost everyone.
Plus, when Stephen learns he may have three potential Dads, he comments, “It’s like Mamma Mia… I’ve only seen the trailer for the first one, but you get the gist”.
There’s so many great one-liners in the script which I’ll leave you to discover, but as someone who has dealt with so many SCART leads to the point where I was stopping RF aerial signals from leaking back through them, by snipping specific wires at one end, one of Geoff’s topped the lot, as he comment on how everything can be answered by Wikipedia: “Who invented SCART leads? Love SCART. Solid. Like Sticklebricks. No fucking about.”
Overall, Back Series 2 is brilliant. Daft, but brilliant.
Roll on series 3… whenever that comes. 2020 has rather knackered anything new being filmed in close quarters… and the same goes for 2021, so far. Yes, you’re probably not getting the new James Bond film until 2022 at the earliest…
Back Series 2 begins on Thursday January 21st on Channel 4 at 10pm. The series isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
However, you can buy Series 1 on DVD.
After broadcast, each episode will be on All4.
Series Score: 9/10
Director: George Kane
Producer: Lyndsay Robinson
Creator: Simon Blackwell
Writers: Simon Blackwell, Fay Rusling, Oriane Messina
Music: Oli Julian
Stephen: David Mitchell
Andrew: Robert Webb
Cass: Louise Brealey
Ellen: Penny Downie
Jan: Jessica Gunning
Julian: John Macmillan
Mike: Oliver Maltman
Geoff: Geoff McGivern
Alison: Olivia Poulet
Cath: Jumanne Bailey
Bryony: Anna Leong Brophy
Lee: Tim Downie
Keith: Donavan Imber
Shoe Shop Assistant: Roisin O’Mahony
Barman: Robert Purdy
Robbie: Oliver Wellington
Charismatic Mike: Anthony Stewart Head
Joanna: Alice Lowe
Phil: CLive Francis
Young Andrew: Caius Luckyn-Malone
Young Stephen: Sebastian Patterson
Garden Centre Employee: Dan March
Tom: Dan Mersh
Wendy: Penny Ryder
Sarah Donnelly: Angela Sims
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.