The BAFTA TV Drama awards of 2020 are going to be a bloodbath. Fleabag vs Gentlemen Jack vs Years And Years vs Killing Eve – and that's only on the BBC. With comedies from Channel 4 like Catastrophe and The Year of The Rabbit elbowing their way in – and to that number we now have to add Gameface, the first episode of which airs tonight on channel 4.
British comedy-drama Gameface has had a long and tortured journey. Written by and starring Roisin Conaty, it had a pilot air on E4 in 2014, a series air on E4 in 2017, and two years later, a second series on higher profile channel Channel 4.
I've seen the first second episodes and it's a clear jump on that first series – which is still excellent and can be found on the All4 app right now. It is bawdier with a broader comedy sense than some of its contemporaries, but in the second series, it weaponises this as a scalpel to reveal unseen truths about the characters and their relationship to each other.
Ostensibly about Marcella, an actress who can't get a break, and really should have done by now, her life is stuck between partners, ex-partners, potential partners, friends, family, housemates and an agent who has literally forgotten who she is. She is seeing a psychotherapist/life coach – multiple ones over the series – who are utterly inept and may benefit more from the sessions that she does. Karl Theobald, who you'll know from Twenty Twelve, Green Wing, Plebs and Yesterday is remarkably pathetic in this role as Graham, undermined by his own intern who is clearly more adept.
It feels like it should fit into the shape of 'messy women' comedies that have encompassed everything from Bridget Jones, Chewing Gum, Fleabag and Catastrophe, but Gameface does something very new and distinct. there is a moment at the end of the second episode that will not only outrage the Daily Mail and Twitter, probably, with what may be seen as gross comedy that just doesn't get seen on television, but also combined with a true sense of empathy and heartbreak for Roisin, but also reveal real care from who could have just have been dismissed as the hot driving instructor, Damien Molony off of Being Human as Jon, shows a proper connection between the two that transgresses the usual, while also being utterly relatable and funny. I have never seen anything straddle those worlds so successfully, and that sums up the show as a whole.
And it is unfair that this is going to be compared to Fleabag, but their proximity and similarity in subject matter makes this unavoidable. Personal tragedies, mad families, hot unattainable male professional, and it is going to be seen as lesser by some people. But that's because Gameface is doing something different. It is a bawdier, wetter, messier comedy – you know what? More working class in attitude. that doesn't give a stuff about the form, but all this does a remarkable job at knocking aside everything aside from the central character relationships which I find myself caring for more than anything else. Five stars.
Have a trailer…
Gameface airs on Wednesdays probably at 10pm on Channel 4 from next week.