Can things get worse for Dan (Greg Davies), the accident-prone teacher in Channel 4 comedy Man Down?
He’s the hapless lump with the weird friends who still lives with his mum and cannot find love. In tonight’s opening episode of series three we find the woman he loves – fellow teacher Emma (Jeany Spark) – has moved to Boston.
Perhaps more worryingly, Dan is subject to a disciplinary hearing at the school – but for what? He doesn’t know. So he hits upon the wizard wheeze of staging a break-in to steal his file with the help of his delightfully freaky mates, (Rosin Conaty’s Jo and Mike Wozniak’s Brian, below).
The script is razor-sharp – I’d say this could well be the strongest series so far, with some right zingers in there.
Davies once again draws on his personal memories of being an actual teacher to extract some fabulous lines. My favourite was the pupil who took issue with yet another lazy lesson from this laziest of drama teachers. “Not AIDS, again.”
And Davies’s physical comedy remains one of the strengths of the show – a scene involving a fence during the school break-in and its aftermath is a moment of genius of which Chaplin would have been proud.
The show has also added some interesting new cast members, including Mark Hamill in a cameo in an upcoming episode.
“It’s incongruous, isn’t it? But that’s the joy of it,” Davies tells RadioTimes.com about Hamill’s arrival. Who he plays is being kept a closely guarded secret.
“He turned up on set, he knew who everybody was, he knew what the dynamic was with all the characters, he really thoroughly researched it and he knew the show,” says Davies.
Hamill wanted to be in the comedy partly because he was such a fan of Rik Mayall, the late actor who played the antagonist character of Dan’s dad in series one before his untimely death two years ago.
Steven Berkoff also pops up as a psychopathic Serbian caretaker (below), while Tony Robinson makes an appearance as “Everyone calls me Daddy” Daedalus, the new boyfriend of Dan’s Mum.
But what of Dan himself? How much more misery can Davies heap upon his broad shoulders?
This series, Davies says Dan will be “forced into more decisions”.
“I felt like we’d heaped enough pressure on a stationary man, if that makes sense. We’d thrown everything we could at someone who was treading water. I had a lot of fun throwing everything at him, all of life’s complications.
“This series felt like there had to be change, or we had to see Dan start making decisions, so I guess that’s the big change. But there’s change being forced upon him and change that he’s responsible for. So that’s the thing. And more of a story arc this time, more of a journey. How successful that is, and how far he actually gets, I’ll leave to your imagination. But the will is there in the character, and there are things that he can’t avoid now.”
But how long can he go on tormenting the character? And surely if Dan does find any meaningful happiness, won’t that spell the end?
“You know, in this series, I feel for him more than I ever have. It’s a very strange thing to watch stuff back, to look at yourself and go, ‘Oh, you poor bastard,’ because he is having a go, you know.”
As for how long he can go on, Davies is not prepared to say.
“Do you know what? This will sound like a cop-out, but I can’t answer that because the dust needs to settle on this. It’s such an all-consuming thing to do, you know, it’s been the best part of the last year of my life. Yes, things can’t work for him but life’s hard for everybody, isn’t it?”
As we can see…
Man Down series 3 starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday 13 July at 10pm