Man Down is back. Thanks goodness for that. After a stellar first series and a slightly disappointing Christmas special I am happy to report that – unlike the central character – it is fighting fit.
Charting the travails of Greg Davies’ hapless teacher Dan, it’s more frenetic this series, and maybe even funnier as the outsized child in a suit tries to find love and cope with his two idiot friends (Mike Wozniak) and Jo (Roisin Conaty).
But first to his Dad. In the seasonal special, Stephanie Cole was drafted in to take over from the much-missed Rik Mayall after the legendary actor died while the scripts were being written. So Dan’s tormentor-in-chief Dad became Cole’s Great Aunt Nesta.
It’s an astute swap – not a like for like exchange but one which subtly takes the comedy in a new and intriguing direction. Mayall’s Dad was out and out brutal in the way he persecuted his son, but Nesta is emerging as a much warmer character, albeit one who doesn’t take any prisoners when it comes to dealing with her wayward relative.
Because there is a strong sense that he needs help, that Dan may soon be running out of chances as he strives to get his life on track and somehow – somehow – get a girlfriend. In tonight’s opener, of course he gets a date, and one he tries his best to ruin as quickly as possible by drinking a pint of wine and wearing a vein-janglingly tight Shed Seven T-shirt. There is also a brilliant sequence involving hair dye.
So far, so sitcom. But the brilliance of Man Down is in the slight differences, the flashes of of originality. And the way Dan fails with this particular conquest – well that’s the surprising bit. This series never takes the easy route out and the climax – the literal climax – is uproariously funny.
Brian also figures in this episode. Dan’s uptight friend one of the best characters of the show and tonight we see him trying to find his true self by becoming a bin man. Don’t ask. Just enjoy Mike Wozniak’s excellent performance.
But I think my favourite moment is a scene in the gym when Dan tries to get himself in shape with a personal trainer (Daniel Adegboyega) who simply doesn’t know what to do with him.
With delicious understatement and impeccable timing he looks Dan up and down and just mutters: “It’s all gone.”
Fortunately this comedy hasn’t. It’s back – and it’s on song.
The second series of Man Down begins on Channel 4 tonight at 10pm