Am I Being Unreasonable? review: An intriguing drama with so-so comedy
Daisy May Cooper offers up a tonally distinct yet hit-and-miss series.
The term comedy-drama can be pretty all encompassing. Plenty of comedies have more serious moments, and most dramas will contain some humour. And for those shows that purport to be a true blend of the two, naturally most will lean harder on one genre or the other.
Am I Being Unreasonable? has been pitched as a comedy thriller, something which is less common. James Corden's The Wrong Mans would be an obvious example, and the parallels don't end there. Both that series and Am I Being Unreasonable? were created by two friends, both of whom also star in the project, and one of whom broke out in a previous sitcom of their own creation.
This series, in truth, is less of a thriller than Corden's at first glance, and instead acts as more of a mystery drama. But, just like that series, Am I Being Unreasonable? is primarily narrative-driven as opposed to being character-driven like a sitcom. In both shows, that can mean the comedy unfortunately falls by the wayside or fails to land.
In Am I Being Unreasonable? Daisy May Cooper plays Nic, a mother and wife who's trapped in a loveless marriage and struggling with grief following a tragedy in her past.
She suffers from a daily ennui, spending her time lying on the sofa or avoiding her irascible and eccentric cleaner. Then, while at a fete for her son's school, she meets Jen and seemingly finds what she's been missing in her life – excitement, friendship, and a genuine bond.
However, as the first episode progresses it becomes clear that Nic is harbouring a secret... and it seems that Jen might be too.
It's this central mystery and the deeper, darker moments with the characters where the series works best. Selin Hizli nicely balances out Cooper's broader performance, and the pair's off-screen friendship is evident in their on-screen chemistry.
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When it comes to Cooper's performance, it's in the quieter moments with this character that she shines. When she starts to flex her dramatic chops she makes for a believable and empathetic lead. Surprisingly, it's in the laughs that her character sometimes falls short.
Cooper has proven herself an accomplished comic actor time and again, not least in the exceptional This Country. That show wasn't exactly subtle, but Cooper and her co-creator brother Charlie crafted a fully rounded and hyper-specific world for their outlandish characters to exist in. They were oddballs, but their behaviour seemed as though a charming by-product of their surroundings.
Here her character is in one sense more grounded, yet frequently and purposefully skirts the boundary of likability. She at times becomes hard to root for, and when she goes big, like in one toilet scene in episode 2, her performance can be grating. Some jokes land, some unfortunately don't.
Meanwhile Dustin Demri-Burns, a phenomenal comic character actor, plays the mostly-amiable yet utterly dull Dan. He's perfectly fine in the role, yet one can't help but think his talents are being wasted.
The show's ace up its sleeve is, undeniably, Lenny Rush. The young actor is phenomenal in the role of Nic and Dan's son Ollie, who's wise beyond his years and whose relationship with his mum is often flipped – he's the sensible, level-headed one, reminding her to take him to school.
His are the scenes where the comedy really lands. Rush's comic timing is excellent, and the dynamic between Ollie and Nic finds the show at its most charming.
The series' tonal quirks and imbalances may be off-putting to some – the darkness of some subject matter right from the off is gripping but jarring – but it's in the scenes between mother and son that sitcom fans may find themselves most at home.
Elsewhere the comedy may be somewhat hit and miss, but it's the emotional weight, the character drama and the central enigma which will keep you hooked. Only the first two episodes have currently been made available to preview, so this may not sustain all six, but as of now I remain intrigued.
This Country this ain't, but if you're looking for an eclectic mystery drama that truly strikes its own tone, then you'll struggle to find anything quite as unique on TV right now.
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