KENDAL hit the screen as the first two episodes of new sitcom ‘Trying Again’ aired on Sky Living.
Although on the face of it a gentle, light-hearted comedy, ‘Trying Again’ has serious dramatic themes at its core: unemployment, eviction, mortgage worries and relationship troubles.
The series is built around the relationship between Matt (Chris Addison) and Meg (Jo Joyner), whose chemistry is obvious from the start.
Matt is nervous, neurotic and has an old-man-in-a-young-man’s-body fear of texting and ‘street youths’.
Meg is a much more instantly likeable character – feisty and outgoing – and gets many of the best one-liners.
The first episode sets up the background to their story – although insisting that they are ‘soulmates’ Matt and Meg are trying to mend their relationship after her affair with her former boss.
We see unemployed Meg at the job centre being told that the only job available is back at the doctor’s surgery where she had the affair – and if she does not take it she risks losing her benefit.
Things get desperate when the couple are told by their landlord that he is selling their house and gives them several months to leave.
Many of Meg and Matt’s problems reflect the claustrophobia of life in a small town – with a shortage of affordable housing and jobs available to them.
Addison and Joyner are supported in fine style by Elizabeth Berrington as Matt’s plain-speaking driving instructor sister, whose unorthodox approach to teaching her students is a nice running gag.
There is also Meg’s passive-aggressive fellow receptionist (played by Alex Macqueen) and my personal favourite Alun Cochrane as Matt’s deadpan and drily witty colleague in the fictional Kendal Tourist Information Centre.
One laugh-out-loud scene in the second episode comes when their shop is robbed by pre-teens who steal money from the till and then return for a single jar of chutney (‘My nan loves this’).
‘Trying Again’ lacks the edge and originality of Addison’s and writer Simon Blackwell’s previous project ‘The Thick of It’, but feels fresh and honest with an intelligent script and a few belly laughs in each episode.
* ‘Trying Again’ is an eight-part series aired on Sky Living at 9pm on Thursdays.
The sitcom received a four-star review from The Daily Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, who described it as ‘warm, witty and winningly old-fashioned’.
Speaking of the lead characters Hogan said: “Their travails were set in the Lake District town of Kendal, which made a pleasant change from London or some generic metropolis.”
But Ellen E. Jones of The Independent said: “It’s not short of well-honed gags but the subject matter of boring jobs and unhappy relationships came off as unintentionally depressing.
“Meg and Matt’s life in the Cumbrian town of Kendal is picturesque but poky.
“The only job available to unemployed Meg is at the same doctor’s surgery where she had her affair, while the local couples counsellor is so rubbish she can’t even say the word ‘affair’.”
Staveley B&B owner Heather Coupland, whose guest house will feature in a later episode of the show, said: “I thought it was a lighthearted, amusing programme, and I thought Chris Addison was particularly funny.
“I thought it presented the area really well – the scenes by the river looked really lovely and it gave Kendal a lot of character.”
Rachel Thomas, 22, of Kendal, works at FishXpress at Kendal and spent a day working as an extra when parts of episode one were filmed in the Highgate fish and chip restaurant and takeaway.
During the episode Rachel can be seen serving customers and working in the premises.
“I enjoyed the sit com. It seems like a gentle comedy and it was interesting to spot various places in Kendal that I knew.
“I hope it brings even more customers into the restaurant!”