There are three distinctly different sitcom pilots, that have aired in the last six months or so, that should be commissioned for a full series. All are currently available to view on BBC iplayer.
Although aired as a Christmas Special, it was in the most part a very humorous take on the extended Jessop family during a year of lockdowns and tiers. Well observed and written by Tom Basden, who also plays brother/in-law, Robin.
The family have to cancel a trip to Florida because of the Covid pandemic. Student daughter Amy (Freya Parks) complains, as only teenage girls can, about paying £9,000 to learn online, a familiar cry across the nation. With job losses they have to tighten their belts but mum (Katherine Parkinson) insists they need a family holiday and packs them all off to a blustery Margate in October. Suffice it to say all does not go well.
In an interview Basden said that he hoped “…it’s (Pandemonium) got the tone of sitcom classics like The Office”: well rest assured it has, mainly because, Paul Jessop, played by Jim Howick, has the noticeable speech mannerisms of a certain David Brent.
Nevertheless, Pandemonium has all the ingredients for a successful sitcom series – a good script, a good cast including Alison Steadman,and developable characters.
Written by, and starring Lucy Pearman (Red Dwarf, The Mind of Herbert Clunkerdunk, Mister Winner) Please Help follows the story of a normal girl living and working on an isolated farm in Oxfordshire who is trapped in a mundane and claustrophobic life as her grandmother’s only carer. As life becomes increasingly fraught she develops bizarre and inexplicable ‘magical’ powers that make her absolutely NOT normal anymore.
The short pilot episode, which was filmed on location in Oxfordshire, also stars Anna Calder-Marshall, Harry Peacock, David Mumeni and Edward Bluemel was broadcast on BBC Three and now available on BBC iplayer.
Lucy Pearman said: “I was very excited and also scared to be writing and creating a project for the BBC with Tiger Aspect. I can’t believe how much admin is involved in making 15 minutes of TV but I had the time of my life. I’ve had an amazing cast and crew and I finally got to work with a Shetland pony, what more could a girl ask for.”
David Simpson, Head of Tiger Aspect Comedy, says: “Lucy is a true original. Her script is brilliantly crafted and simultaneously warm and charming and wildly funny.”
Ben Caudell, Commissioning Editor for the BBC says: “Lucy is an absurdist auteur who has given us a thrilling slice of comic magic realism that defies categorization, even though I just called it comic magic realism. It was an absolute joy to be tangentially involved with it, not least because I got to send emails where the subject line was ‘PLEASE HELP ME’ and it be a straightforward work email rather than my regular desperate cry for urgent assistance.”
Nina should get on well with Ross Geller, after all they both have a passion for paleontology. Both indulge their passion in exhibitions of fossils at museums but for Ross it is a job, for Nina the consuming fascination with bones is one sign of her undiagnosed autism.
Nina, beautifully portrayed by Ashley Storrie, who is actually autistic, knows she is ‘different’ and her family also know it. She exhibits many of the classic signs associated with being on the spectrum – social awkwardness; not understanding the nuance of sarcasm; expecting people to do as they say; reliance on routine, finding it sometimes difficult to form friendships and it all comes out in this charming sitcom.
So when her sister Evie (Bebe Cave) asks Nina to be maid-of-honour at her wedding. It increases Nina’s anxiety levels. Nevertheless Nina decides to step out of her comfort zone and embrace the opportunity. She takes to using a dating app to find a date to take to the wedding and in the longer term to hopefully experience the ’love’ that others feel. Within minutes she gets a positive response from Lee (Will Merrick) and they meet up. Over a beer and peanuts the pair discover a common love of fan fiction, another of Nina’s intense interests. She agrees to send Lee her latest effort and as the date ends he enthusiastically agrees to read the article.
Nina emails the article the moment she gets home and, because of her condition, expects him to read it and respond immediately. But he doesn’t: despite the frequent texts that she sends him. Nina becomes increasingly frustrated so, when, a few days later, she bumps into him on a late-night bus when travelling home from her sister’s engagement party, she takes him to task.
Thus we feel for her anxiety and confusion. She has opened herself up to being hurt and is feeling the pain. Her mind is clear: people should do what they say they will do. This is a more than promising sitcom. It deals with Nina’s condition sympathetically.