Comely comedienne Roisin Conaty has been appearing on a lot of panel shows recently, and she always brings the funny, so I was excited to see that she had a sitcom pilot airing this week on Ch4, titled Game Face.
The episode was filled with interweaving plot-threads and fun flashback gags (accessed via a very Spaced-esque camera swoosh)… though I can’t help wondering if “over-stuffed” might be a more accurate description. In this pilot alone, the main character (‘Marcella’) began seeing a life coach, took her first ill-fated driving lesson, tried to join a book club, discovered that her ex-long-term-boyfriend had married a woman he’d known for just five days, and agreed to give a talk to pupils at her former school to show up a snooty classmate! Crikey. All this business kept the pace pretty high (along with the hit-to-miss joke ratio), but also burned through a lot of storylines that could have been explored in greater depth, over the course of a potential series (or series-es, if you see what I mean).
Also on the downside, a lot of the pay-offs tended towards “cringe comedy”, which isn’t my flavour of choice… and I found it particularly frustrating that twice Marcella managed to talk/charm her way out of an awkward situation, only for her supposed best-friend to sabotage her by being inexplicably honest at the last moment. It just seemed like a shoddy way to end those scenes on another embarrassment, when they could just as easily have ended on a small “win”, without really undermining the general premise of the show. I’d suggest the friend was under some sort of evil “Truth Telling” curse, if it weren’t for the fact that it was one of her own impulsive lies that set Marcella up for a major fall in the first place. Gah! And, if I were going to get on my high-horse, I might point out that while the extras in the class that Marcella spoke to were admirably multi-ethnic, the main cast of the show are all lily-white. Tch! Still, none of that is enough to bring down my overall opinion of the show, or silence the echo of the loud laughs that it frequently inspired.
As for the cast: I thought Conaty carried the show with aplomb… besides being a very funny actress, you have to give her snaps for spending half the episode looking a total mess, with smeared lipstick, food on her face, and bird’s nest hair. Hotcha! Pauline McLynn appeared (briefly) as Marcella’s unnamed ‘Mum’… Cariad Lloyd and Caroline Ginty played her super-unhelpful friends… and the uber-adorable Ingrid Oliver had a scene-stealing cameo as ‘Claire’, the over-achieving former classmate who may-or-may-not have scored a “D” in Maths.
[Curious fact: Although Conaty is listed as the sole writer on the show, a fella named Harry Forte is credited as “Comedy Assistant”… whatever that means.]