TV review: Gap Year, E4 (3 stars)

TV review: Gap Year

An unfamiliar setting but overly familiar predicament triggers a confusing first impression for this ensemble backpacking comedy-drama

The fish-out-of-water trope is a familiar one in classic TV comedies. There was the alien who had landed on earth in Mork and Mindy and the techno-illiterate manager heading up a pair of geeks in The IT Crowd. Meanwhile the likes of Partridge, Brent and Meldrew seemed totally out of place in the contemporary British society they found themselves having to deal with.

In Gap Year, absolutely everyone appears lost as this bunch of westerners try to stay safe and remain sane in the deeply unfamiliar environs of modern China. Friendships are strained, loves are challenged, parties need to be attended, and selves await to be discovered.

The show might have been created by Tom Basden (the ex-Cowards sketch guy who wrote the excellent Party, a play which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe before being extended on the radio), but it has a team of writers so numerous that they could have a fair old stab at rebuilding The Great Wall of China together. Among that keyboard-bashing battalion are James Wood (Rev), Jonny Sweet (Together) and Tim Key (the Edinburgh Comedy Award winner who previously did his poetry thing on Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe), so the show is not without its talent. Key also does his never-dull charming / annoying thing as Greg, the group's creepy veteran of such 12-month tours of duty.

But on the viewing of just a single (and disappointingly laughter-light) establishing episode, this feels like a classic case of too-many-cooks. Hopefully it will settle down into its own groove and with the likes of Cold Feet's Robert Bathurst and Flowers' Daniel Rigby yet to make appearances, there is hope to be had. And we can surely only assume that Janeane Garofalo will have more of an acerbic say to proceedings than the 15 seconds of Gap Year's opening scene.

Gap Year starts on E4, Thu 23 Feb, 9pm.

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