Actor Idris Elba’s semi-autobiographical sitcom In the Long Run (Sky One) was back for a second series of nostalgic shenanigans. But warm-hearted though it was, the show sadly felt as dated as its Eighties setting.
As we rejoined the Easmon family on their Hackney housing estate, factory worker Walter (Elba) had been elected union rep and jobs were at risk. Neighbour Bagpipes (Bill Bailey) had problems of his own, including a “broken arse”. Or a bruised coccyx, as he kept correcting everyone.
With its rose-tinted community feel and evocative production design, this good-natured romp begged to be liked yet made that tricky. The script was clumsy, accents were hammy and characterisation lapsed into lazy cliché. The women were invariably the smart ones, their husbands the hapless idiots.
The writers needed to realise that referencing retro foodstuffs – Crispy Pancakes, tinned pineapple, Walnut Whips, Skips – was no substitute for proper jokes. And I hate to be a nerd (I don’t really) but the period soundtrack couldn’t decide whether it was 1981 or 1985.
I also wish someone would have an honest word with Elba about his career choices. Since he shot to fame in The Wire, Luther and Hollywood films, he’s lost the ability to say “no” to offers of work. This is the second lame sitcom he’s attempted, after the execrable Turn Up Charlie. He’s also a DJ, singer, kickboxer, awards host, documentary-maker and fashion model who pops up in endless adverts.
Less is more, Idris. More drama, less comedy, fewer jobs just for the money and you might regain your credibility. In the long run.