TV review: Meet The Coopers | Pilot of new BBC sitcom © BBC

TV review: Meet The Coopers

Pilot of new BBC sitcom

Meet The Coopers could be pitched in five words: ‘Outnumbered - but with adopted kids’.  And since its forebear was one of the best mainstream sitcoms in years, that’s not a bad pedigree to have.

Tanya Franks and Paterson Joseph play Tess and Toby, the harassed but well-intentioned adoptive parents of three kids: Frankie (Erin Kellyman), Alisha (India Brown) and Charlie (Joseph West). They’re struggling against the usual, if exaggerated, travails of parenthood: Frankie staying out too late,  fears Charlie isn’t fitting in at school after he wasn’t invited to his classmate’s eighth birthday party, and so on

An extra level comes from the frisson between birth family and the adoptive one: in this pilot explored through the ‘radicialisation’ of Alisha, becoming an enthusiastic – and preachy – Christian thanks the the interference of her genetic grandmother. The realisation that Tess and Toby might have fibbed about their own faith to secure good school places gets her on a high horse about the sin of lying, while the questions she has about heaven adds a touch of surrealism.

There are a lot of storylines being juggled in the script, which is no bad thing, keeping the comedy bubbling briskly. Writer Andy Wolton, himself an adoptee, packs a lot of gags into his sitcom debut, having cutting his teeth on BBC radio comedies such as The Now Show.

The humour is warm and engaging, though there’s a bit of a saccharine ending, one of a few minor missteps to be expected from a pilot. The sitcom’s premise is summed up when, after the final parental embarrassment, Frankie sighs: ’This family. I’m terrified they are going to sit me down one day and tell me I’m NOT adopted.’

Another quibble is the inconsistency in lines from the children, which  sometimes sound a bit sitcommy, sometimes more naturalistic, like Outnumbered – showing the impact Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton’s show has had on the genre.

But overall, the confident, funny writing and likeable performances all round make it a pleasure to meet the Coopers. After the travesty of remaking Are You Being Served?, the BBC could have a hit on their hands with this, the first of three pilots getting an airing in its Landmark Sitcom season.

Review date: 29 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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