Preview: In with the Flynns

Rejoice! BBC1 has a new family sitcom that isn't totally awful!

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It’s a moment sitcom fans dread: BBC1 has got a new one out and, worse still, it’s pre-watershed. Yes, it’s a new “family” sitcom. About a family. Vague pun in the title. Hello, new My Family/Life of Riley.

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This one stars Will Mellor, previously of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps infamy. It’s going to be horrible, isn’t it?

Actually, no. In with the Flynns (starts tonight, 8.30pm BBC1) drags mainstream sitcom towards the 21st century and perhaps even into it. It’s full of likeable characters, it’s modern but still cosy, it’s got the right amount of naughtiness and it’s neatly put together.

OK, so it starts badly. After the perfunctory credits sequence, with swishing shots of Manchester set to the tootling mush of For Anyone by Beady Eye, there’s a leaden opening scene introducing Liam (Will Mellor), his brother Tommy (Craig Parkinson), Liam’s wife Caroline (Niky Wardley) and their kids.

Anyone applying the “give it five minutes” test might bail out, faced with Tommy apparently being a textbook, will-this-do feckless uncle, some nasty forced exposition (“We need the money! We’re so close to our dream holiday to Santorini!”) and the odd clangingly familiar gag, such as “you say that like it’s a BAD thing!” in response to a bad thing.

Stick with it. The cast are uniformly good – Warren Clarke in the minor role of Liam and Tommy’s dad is a bit of a coup – and the central theme of Liam and Caroline loving their three children without ever quite being able to control them comes over well without being too cheesy.

So it’s relaxed and welcoming but it’s also pacy, thanks to neat plotting and a judicious use of cutaways that let us see events outside the house – as reported by the characters, sometimes inaccurately.

Most promisingly, the writers (two of whom wrote C4’s funny Pete versus Life) push the content as far as they reasonably can before 9:00pm. We’ve got smoking, piercing and violence in episode one – nothing offensive but without them, I wouldn’t have had the two LOLs I had, both of which were visual gags. One came when Tommy’s eyebrow piercing instantly went wrong; the other was when one of the kids had to be stopped from beating up a lawn.

In with the Flynns isn’t a golden comedy classic, but I quite happily watched a whole half-hour of it without wanting to kill myself or any of the characters. For the British family sitcom, this is exciting new ground.

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