Porters

TV preview by Steve Bennett

Of course TV keeps returning to hospitals for its dramas and sitcoms. They are places where emotional stakes couldn’t be much higher, while for comedy there’s something surreal about these unusual environments and the medics and staff who work there so matter-of-factly.

Dave’s new three-part sitcom Porters is a fine addition to the pantheon of medical comedies, heightening the weirdness of that strange world. It’s slightly similar to early Scrubs in its peculiar sensibilities, but a nimble script and top-rate casting – Kelsey Grammar as a guest! – make it a delight on its own.

We see this odd place through the experience of Simon Porter (Edward Easton), a new boy instantly out of his depth among the netherworld of the hospital porters. He insists he wants to work his way up to being a doctor – despite the fact that medical qualifications don’t work like that, and the obvious shortcomings that he’s squeamish, timid and naive.

These traits are exploited by Frankie the queen of the porters and the real pivot around which the show turns - and an excellently judged comic turn from Chewing Gum’s Susan Wokoma. Meanwhile, Rutger Hauer is a sort of Kramer character, a deranged Teutonic sage with a German word for every occasion and an intense hands-on approach to dealing with an allegedly suicidal hypochondriac played by Mat Horne.

There’s an upstairs-downstairs dynamic in St. Etheldreda's, with Simon – or ‘Semen’ as his name badge is childishly vandalised to read – instantly besotted with nurse Lucy (Claudia Jessie) so far out of his league as Frankie relishes telling him.

Also downstairs is the morgue, whose staff are played by comics Toby Williams – channelling the creepy medic George Ryegold who he’s long played on the comedy circuit – and Jo Enright.

Writer Dan Sefton has clearly drawn on his own experiences of working in a hospital, for example in deploying some of the mischievous three-letter abbreviations medics use to obfuscate: SEP for ‘someone else’s problem’, and the teasing camaraderie between the porters. But more importantly in dreaming up what we can only hope are extreme ‘what if’ situations. In this case, Simon being sent on an initiation mission with his first corpse, which sounds plausible, becoming a screwball, farcical plot to convince his relatives that the patient is still alive.

His impish script is full of outlandish scenarios and daft lines that often surprise, packed in at a lively pace and creating a sense of fun often missing from modern comedies of cringe.  

Dave has only dipped its toe in the water with a commission of three episodes, but the results from this test are back –  and the prognosis for Porters is definitely good.

• Porters is on Dave at 10pm tonight.

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Published: 20 Sep 2017

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