Having covered Christmas Day itself and the odd period between Christmas and New Year (aka Betwixtmas) in previous Yuletide specials, this year Two Doors Down creates a festive miracle – a Christmas drinks do where you won’t be fretting about your lateral flow tests before and after.
Yes, unlike last year’s special the spectre of COVID no longer hangs over the Glaswegian revels of Beth and Eric Baird (Arabella Weir and Alex Norton) and their strange neighbours. Instead, they’re in for a quiet glass of bubbly and a few wee snacks as they pop round to houseproud Michelle (Joy McAvoy) and her dour husband Alan (wrestler Grado).
It being Two Doors Down, the entire cast soon descend on the house including the in-mourning Christine (Elaine C. Smith), double-fisting JD and Cokes and beers in honour of her deceased friend, Beth and Eric’s son Ian (Jamie Quinn) and his boyfriend Gordon (Kieran Hodgson) and, of course, hellish neighbours Cathy and Colin (Doon Mackichan and Jonathan Watson, the latter fresh from a turn as a wonderful Doctor Who Sontaran).
The joy of Two Doors Down is that you can more or less predict what comes next – Cathy will snipe at Michelle’s choices, Gordon will get flustered, while Christine drops a few foul-mouthed bon mots – because it plays out roughly the same in most episodes. But the way the familiar beats develop is still laugh-out-loud funny, believable and even (in certain moments) a little bit festive. Excluding all the vomit.
The episode also features a post-credits payoff that made me belly laugh, so it’s well worth popping back and checking if you tuned out as soon as the episode seemed to end.
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Sometimes, it’s difficult to be a TV critic. Can I explain why I find it so funny hearing a middle-aged Scottish man describe his planned Chinese takeaway over and over again? No, I cannot – but it’s still hilarious, especially when watched with friends and family. It’s simple but well-observed character comedy, and I honestly hope they’ll keep finding new ways to make festive specials for years to come.
Two Doors Down isn’t as big a hit as the likes of Gavin & Stacey or The Royle Family, but it shares some DNA with both, and has a dedicated fanbase tuning in to see the next house party gone wrong. Sadly, they’ll have to wait a little while for that, as this third episode of series five will be the last for a few months.
Why? Well, you may have spotted actor Joy McAvoy (sister to James, celeb relation fans) is pregnant in the episode – and in scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Two Doors Down storyline (in fact, did it happen in series two? Answers on a postcard) her waters reportedly broke during filming of the episode, leading to a brief hiatus in shooting until 2022.
“Because it hasn’t been on for quite a while, they decided to show two episodes before Christmas, and show a Christmas special, and then, round about springtime, show the whole series in one,” Jonathan Watson recently told me. “We start up again fairly soon.”
In other words, savour this deliciously chucklesome Christmas treat while you can – it’ll be a little while before you get the rest of series five to unwrap.
This year's Radio Times Christmas double issue is on sale now, featuring two weeks of TV, film and radio listings, reviews, features and interviews with the stars.