Back (4 stars)

Back

Mitchell and Webb do their Mitchell and Webb thing but with added layers as their family sitcom returns with further scolding humour

There are lots of TV shows which invite obvious 'gags' in reviews due to their title: The Great, The Forgotten, Lost, and This Primetime Comedy Drama Is Likely To Be Clichéd And Awful are just four of them. However, this review of Back will resist the almost unbearable temptation of trying to find as many ways as possible to say that it has returned for a second series. Oh, The Returned, that's another one.

Anyway, having arrived in 2017 for the third main iteration of their TV double act (sketch affair That Mitchell And Webb Look and POV sitcom Peep Show being the deliriously popular first two), Robert Webb and David Mitchell are….here again with the Simon Blackwell-penned comedy in which they step ever so slightly outside their Peep Show personae of Mark and Jeremy. For one thing, Mitchell has a beard and is a medium-functioning alcoholic even though he does toss out similarly witty and bone-dry barbs riddled with pop culture references largely culled from the late 20th century. Webb plays an equally wolfish chap but with seditious designs that are so subtle that they can never be quite proven by either the characters here who are on to him or, indeed, the audience.

When we catch up with events in its second series, Stephen (Mitchell) is still reeling from the news of his true parentage while Webb's Andrew (the foster brother who emerged out of the blue at their father's funeral) seems to be hatching various plans to undermine Stephen. But is Andrew really the devil incarnate or just a very naughty boy? One reason behind the show's success is in keeping the answer to this question tantalisingly out of reach. Another is the quality of the cast around our central pair with Geoff McGivern almost stealing the show every time he enters a scene with some vulgar bon mots or a statement apropos of nothing. Louise Brealey as Stephen's scatty sister Cass, and Olivia Poulet as his ex-wife and current partner in uncovering the truth about Andrew are also on top form.

Will Back be…..given a third series? The pitch-perfect final scene in a strong last episode suggests that there is indeed more to come. Hopefully soon, Simon Blackwell will get back to the drawing board…..damn it!

Channel 4, starts Thursday 21 January, 10pm; all episodes available on All 4 at 10.30pm.

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