Stop / Start (3 stars)

Jack Docherty’s wedded radio sitcom makes a blissful (ish) leap onto the small screen

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Stop / Start

When it comes to successful TV comedies, the number three can often be key. In Modern Family, there are a trio of households, landlord Rigsby had a hat-trick of tenants in Rising Damp and in the soon to be resurrected Cold Feet, three sets of relationships are played out. This last show acts as a sort-of template for Stop / Start (and not just via John Thomson having a foot in both camps), Jack Docherty’s marriage sitcom which has been given a pilot TV episode after a successful run on Radio 4 (where, for some unknown reason it was conversely called Start / Stop).

The partnerships in question are the discontented Rob (Docherty) and bedraggled Cathy (Kerry Godliman), the bullish Evan (Thomson) and Greek yoghurt-obsessed Fiona (Sarah Hadland), while David (Nigel Havers) and Georgy (Laura Aikman) complete the team with their age-gap marriage featuring all the uncertainty and suspicion which that arrangement can often engender. All of the above contains the ingredients of a sitcom that might well put you off both relationships and TV forever, but Docherty’s amiable knockabout wit which sustained Absolutely‘s sketch affair as well as (just about) his own late 90s Channel 5 talk show keeps things bubbling nicely here.

Of course, every new sitcom can’t just come along and try to be funny, it needs a thingamajig to make it feel different. This one has taken the internal commentary from Peep Show and brought it all out into the open, so that Rob goes all Rab C on us to spout off straight in the viewer’s face. Yet, ever the democrat, Docherty grants all the characters their own moments to camera. Admittedly, this device might well be a nerve-grater should the pilot be catapulted into a series and the only thing which prevents it from plummeting into full-on irritant mode here is the fact that there are some spot-on quips every couple of scenes or so. Whether the Beeb beaks decide to stop this in its tracks or start up a six-episode run, at least Docherty and co gave it their best shot.

Stop / Start is on BBC One, Friday 11 March, 10.35pm.

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