Changing Ends review: A laugh-out-loud autobiographical comedy with a lot of heart
The '80s-set series is a delightful exploration of Alan Carr's teenage years that's both moving and hilarious.
When you first tune into Changing Ends, it's safe to say that your sympathy radar will be in full swing and you'll likely get to the opening credits wanting to scoop young Alan (Oliver Savell) up into a hug.
In a scene that's reminiscent of many people's childhoods, the comedy series opens with Alan sauntering up to his neighbour and friend Charlie's (Rourke Mooney) front door.
Cassette player clipped onto his jeans and at the ready, Alan's looking for Charlie and wants to know whether his friend has mentioned the Murder, She Wrote VHS to his mum Angela (Gabby Best). But she clearly doesn't want her son hanging out with Alan.
Alan walks away, spots Charlie in the window and waves, but Angela quickly comes over and draws the curtain – despite it clearly being the middle of the day.
Your heart goes out to young Alan, who clearly just wants to have a natter with his friend about his favourite edition of the crime drama - but what's he to do?
Pretty soon, though, the quick change of pace of this series establishes it as not being too hung up on the sad, and instead delighting in the joyous.
It continuously flits between heartfelt to downright hilarious in a matter of mere moments, meaning you never quite know where you're going to go.
The new ITVX comedy explores the younger years of the national treasure we all know and love: Alan Carr.
The series is co-written by the Chatty Man himself alongside Simon Carlyle (Two Doors Down), and tells the story of Alan’s life in '80s Northampton, growing up as the son of fourth division football manager, Graham Carr.
Young Alan is played by rising star Savell, who effortlessly takes on all the recognisable characteristics of Carr's – his charm and voice are terribly spot on – for a convincing performance as the well-known comedian and presenter. If you tune in for one person alone, make it Savell, who is a star in his own right in this series.
Carr features as himself in the present day and, rather than flashing forward, the series remains in the '80s with Carr popping into frame every so often to give funny asides about the scene or the context. It's an interesting format to have the real-life subject of the series front-and-centre alongside the young actor who's starring in a dramatised version of his life, but it completely works.
It's a comedy that has those coveted laugh-out-loud moments but manages to fold in some incredibly heartfelt scenes where we see Alan navigate adolescence, puberty and self-discovery at a time when things weren't that inclusive.
He's venturing off to "big school" and his parents take vastly different approaches to the fact. His mother Christine is wonderfully portrayed by Nancy Sullivan as the tender, caring type, while his father Graham is the hard-nosed football club manager played by Shaun Dooley.
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The archetypal image of a football club manager's son Alan is not, but it's not for a lack of effort. We see how the youngster tries to get on board with his father's sport of choice, vying for his attention but also figuring out that liking drama, fluffy ear muffs and Miss Marple is completely fine too.
You follow him as he figures things out for himself, not quite fitting in but being accepting of that and eventually revelling in the differences between him and his classmates.
Each episode goes by in a dizzying flash of tenderness and a healthy dose of comedy, making Changing Ends a delight to lap up. It's a coming out story that isn't bookended by trauma or sadness – which is a privilege in and of itself – but the series was always going to be an easy-going one where Carr is involved.
For instance, when young Alan questions his mum whether he's "normal" because "dad said I'm not normal", it could very well be a sad scene. But soon, conversation turns to Sam down the road who isn't normal because she dyed her guinea pig black.
Only when hugging Alan does Christine's face give away a glimpse of worry for her young son and how he's being understood by those around him – but he wouldn't know it. Instead, he's warmed by the fact Christine tells him: "I think you're perfect, just the way you are. Don't let anybody ever tell you anything different, ever."
The series takes on the familiar setting of childhood and school, where we see Carr navigate friendships and, in more funny moments, how the thought of the boy's changing room communal showers presents a version of hell.
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Interestingly, we also see how he strives to ensure nobody knows his true identity and the fact that Graham Carr is his father.
It's a fantastic feat to have a comedy series that feels so nostalgic and familiar, while also being thoughtful, considered and funny - but Changing Ends holds up its light tone and delivers a considered representation of the attitudes of the '80s, when being gay and expressive in your sexuality wasn't "tolerated", as Carr says.
Most importantly, though, it displays how even with the persisting closed-mindedness around his teenage identity, young Alan manages to ignore those around him to live fully as his authentic self – and it's such an undeniable joy to watch.
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