TV review: The Job Lot

Another new ITV sitcom

After the big and brash Vicious (reviewed here) ITV’s other new comedy offering couldn’t be much more different. The Job Lot is clearly a post-Office office sitcom, all realistic performances and documentary-style shooting, set in a uninspiring West Midlands JobCentre.

Even star Russell Tovey does his best Martin Freeman impression, as a well-meaning Everyman dreaming of a life beyond the dead-end job he cannot bring himself to leave, passing the hours by flirting with the attractive temp.

But it’s an Office without David Brent, which might prove tricky in the long – but not impossible, as the US version of that very show proved. So where is the pivot here? Sarah Hadland’s Trish could take that role, hinting none-too-obliquely, at a troubled mental state, overcompensated over by the false bonhomie that lubricates many a working environment.

The dour jobsworth Angela, deftly played by stand-up Jo Enright, is another likely candidate. A stickler for the rules, her surly obstinacy is a delight, driving a new job-seeker to exasperation by refusing to give him an interview. These scenes – sketches almost – are comic highlights, though one wonders how long they can string out gags about petty bureaucracy beyond the opening episode.

But as a curtain-raiser this was a more-than palatable offering; the characters were introduced effectively and sympathetically, whatever their flaws, and events unfurled amiably. You’d like to see how this lot get on in life, even if there are a few lumps in the script.

More obvious comedy was provided by supporting cast, such as the exaggeratedly slow-witted, shirtless, claimant, and for all the mockmentary style, anything vaguely comic is signposted with generic jaunty music, just in case you missed anything.

On difficult first impressions, the show is not as bold, distinctive or unexpected as it could be, but there’s a hard-to-achieve likability to it, which could well make The Job Lot a grower.

Published: 30 Apr 2013

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