TV review: Gasping
Frankie Boyle excels in Greg Hemphill’s funny short film about addiction and its perils
Harvey Higgins used to be a regular sort who liked nothing better than going out for a bevvy with his mates. But before he knew it, his booze-sodden behaviour had become intolerable for those pals and the ever-increasingly late nights developed a strain upon his marriage. When he loses his job and starts to get the shakes, things go seriously awry especially when he is too busy racing towards the reported site of a lorry that has shed its lager-laden load instead of picking up his young daughter from school.
Interventions are one thing, ultimatums are another. Harvey has had both but little seems to penetrate his skull: the warnings are all just gin off a drunk’s back. But when he finally sees the light, there is one big challenge left to face when he’s invited back to work for a business trip to … a distillery. Should he return home with a single smell of whisky on his breath, then his wedded life is over.
Given that Frankie Boyle has had his own difficult relationship with alcohol in the distant past, this short movie (an entrant in the 2014 LA Comedy Festival which now makes its small-screen debut) could be seen as a brave decision. Though perhaps no more courageous than allowing himself to grow the largest beard since Moses threw away his last disposable razor.
Greg Hemphill has created the piece and insisted that he had Boyle in mind for Harvey during the writing process. He relies mostly on the stand-up’s physicality throughout the film, given that Boyle says just a single sentence: is the message that addiction leaves you without a proper voice? Or is it simply an amusing idea to see someone who makes a living from talking to people being largely denied that function?
In its brief time with us, Gasping is continuously amusing work with at least two (maybe three) laugh-out-loud moments. Give that many sitcoms can barely engender that kind of reaction throughout entire series shows that Hemphill and Boyle were certainly on to something.
Gasping, BBC One Scotland, Mon 30 May, 10:25pm. Available on the BBC iPlayer shortly afterwards.
**Correction** article updated with correct broadcast date.