New Channel 4 comedy Lee and Dean beautifully excavates the pain behind the builder banter

Miles Chapman and Mark O’Sullivan have knocked up a sturdily impressive comedy says Ben Dowell

L-r:  Lee (Miles Chapman) and Dean (Mark O'Sullivan)

Best mates Lee (Miles Chapman) and Dean (Mark O’Sullivan) are friends from childhood, builders who swan around their native Stevenage in a white van – with Lee enjoying the (how shall we put this delicately?) extra-curricular delights of their many female customers.

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Poor Dean has less luck in that regard in this semi-improvised comedy. Even his own Dad seems more taken with laddish Lee than with his own son, at one point demanding of him in a packed boozer: “Oi, brother f*****g Cadfael, get me a lager.”

And then there’s the (crucial) fact that Dean is desperately in love with his mate. And poor Dean’s pain only intensifies when various mishaps sees Lee unwittingly land a new girlfriend, the sweet but naïve Nikki (Camille Ucan).

She is introduced as some kind of care assistant – she “works with dead kids and that” according to Lee – and seems totally oblivious to the emotional undercurrents that swirl around this sharply-written, intriguing comedy.

Of course, poor Dean isn’t the only one upset. Lee’s sexy former client/mistress Mrs Bryce-D’Souza (Anna Morris) isn’t too happy either and does her level best to get Lee’s attentions and thwart his budding romance.

If anything the character of Mrs Bryce-D’Souza perhaps strikes the only  slightly duff note. Her middle-class pretensions do feel slightly over done, as when she remarks during one particular set-back at the hands of her builder boyfriend: “I have not been so humiliated since I mispronounced pancetta in the Waitrose deli.” Surely, even the ghastliest character would surely baulk at saying something like that? But it’s a rare slip up in an otherwise extremely enjoyable show.

Chapman and O’Sullivan pull this intriguing premise off superbly, the vinegary laddish banter bringing the genuine pathos into sharp, sometimes heartbreaking relief. In fact, you may be surprised at how often pain is tenderly excavated – and from so many surprising quarters. Go watch…

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Lee and Dean is on Channel 4 on Friday at 10pm