Amid the wealth of BBC comedy these days, it sometimes feels like Two Doors Down gets a little overlooked. While for some it’s a must-watch TV staple with shades of The Royle Family and Gavin & Stacey, still others might have never caught BBC Scotland’s Glasgow-based sitcom, which feels like it slightly flies under the radar of many critics and round-up lists.
In fact, star Arabella Weir had to take the BBC itself to task for missing this new special off a list of upcoming Christmas offerings early in December, noting that just like the cast of Call the Midwife, Upstart Crow and many more scripted productions they had bubbled and followed strict COVID protocols to bring a little Christmas cheer to TV screens.
The time-slot this special received – a few days after Christmas – could have seemed like a final indignity. But in fact this particular episode is designed precisely to fall into this strange period in-between 25th December and New Year’s, where everyone’s still eating too much, no-one knows what day it is and we’re all faintly aware we’ve been wearing pyjamas too long.
In other words, it’s not just a Christmas special. Two Doors Down has done that in the past, and done it well, but this is something different.
No, this time we’re in for a Betwixt-mas special – and of course, given that this is 2020, it comes with a coronavirus twist. Leaving behind the series’ usual Glasgow suburban setting, this episode sees Beth and Eric Baird (Weird and Alex Norton) decamping to the highlands for a post-Christmas get-together with their trying neighbours Colin (Jonathan Watson), Cathy (Doon Mackichan) and Christine (Elaine C. Smith).
As usual, Beth and Eric are desperate to get everyone out of the house – but instead of just hankering for some peace and quiet, this time they fancy taking in the nice scenery before their son Ian (Jamie Quinn) and his boyfriend Gordon (Kieran Hodgson) arrive with some exciting news. Meanwhile Cathy is as booze-driven and inappropriate as ever, while Christine is still sulking over her COVID-cancelled Christmas.
The joy of Two Doors Down comes in the familiarity, and this episode ticks all the boxes for what we’d see in any given episode. Awkward drunken flirting? Tick. Colin’s browbeaten excuses for his wife? Tick. Christine’s foul-mouthed folksy one-liners? Big tick, right up until the exchange that crowns the episode after an emotional moment of connection between the cast as they watch Christmas classic The Snowman.
“That give you a bit of the Christmas spirit, eh Christine?” asks Colin.
“Aye,” says a slightly emotional Chrsitine.
“Still another f**king repeat though, ain’t it?”
In other words, if you’re a fan all the old favourites are here – but there are also some developments. While Beth and Eric are as exasperated by their friends as ever, a year of lockdowns and restrictions has them feeling a little less inclined to shun their company, even after Beth finally blows up at Cathy’s behaviour.
Meanwhile, Ian and Gordon’s engagement is overshadowed by the latter’s surprise ability for spot-on impressions (and anyone who saw Hodgson’s riff on The Crown cast on Twitter recently will be happy to see his talents showcased).
Overall, it’s a pretty slight special – at 30 minutes there’s barely enough time to assemble the cast and have the usual banter before wrapping things up, and if possible it seems even less eventful than the usual low-key storylines – but it’s a warm one that is sure to bring some comfort to those whose own Christmases have been anything but normal.
Hopefully, soon TV shows like Two Doors Down will hopefully be able to bring episodes to our TV screens easily and often, without the spectre of coronavirus at the feast. But for now, we’ll have to make do with these little treats – as well as a few more “f**king repeats.”
Two Doors Down is streaming on BBC iPlayer. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.