Hello and good day to you, fellow blog readers. This week I would like to borrow your imaginations as this week I have chosen to review a sitcom that was written and broadcast for BBC Radio 4.
Double Income No Kids Yet, was written by David Spicer, originally aired from 2001-2003 and ran for three series, six episodes in each. It stared Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Elizabeth Carling as the childless couple Dan and Lucy.
The series revolves around the couple’s life and how they survive as the only childless couple in a world full of parents. Often the couple have to defend their choice to not have kids to their friends, in between sorting out their friends and relatives problems, leaving next to no time or themselves.
I first came across this sitcom last year when I had some time to kill, and caught the repeat of the first few episodes of series two. I quickly picked up the situation and the characters involved but unfortunately I forgot to keep tuning in and I never saw how the programme evolved.
I made a vow that I must invest in the download should that be possible, but you know what it’s like, Acorn media send you their catalogue and before you know it that month’s wages have gone on boxsets of sitcoms you swore to buy five years ago. Well anyway, I finally downloaded series one through to three and they were worth the wait.
Despite not being able to see the chemistry Tennant and Carling clearly had, you could sense it with your ears. The pair seemed to work really well together and were able to rapidly bounce wit and sarcasm off each other, resulting in listeners believing that they were a married couple.
What I really liked about the sitcom was how relatable it was to modern society despite being over a decade old (you have to excuse the internet dial up tone, heard in one episode), dealing with issues many 35 year old childless couples would deal with. As well as work issues such as how close do you get to your co workers? I guess the magic that prevents this situation comedy form being outdated is the fact that there are still the same issues and questions surrounding women putting their careers first and having children later on in life, or not at all. (Not to mention as you don’t have costumes and sets on radio, there is no risk of that material pushing it towards the ‘out of date’ sign.)
While a lot of television comedy deals with physical comedy to ensure its big laughs, that is impossible with radio, so David Spicer opts for a more dry and witty sense of humour with his sitcom. Now, I am not a huge fan of dry wit but I have to say this works beautifully for Double Income No Kids Yet. While most of the humour is lovely and subtle throughout there are the occasional laugh out loud moments too.
Series one introduces the changes to Dan and Lucy’s world as their oldest friends Andy (who along with Lucy and Dan all met at university) and his wife Katie reveal that they are having a baby. Thus, meaning that Lucy and Dan really are the only couple out of their circle of friends without children.
The continuing storyline of Katie’s pregnancy highlights the detachment Lucy and Dan are suffering from when it comes to the people in their lives.
We are also introduced to the fact that because Dan and Lucy don’t have any children of their own, they are assigned unwillingly the responsibilities of their siblings, nephews, nieces and friends, as well as colleagues. Characters often comment through each series what good parents they would make. Clearly the chaos surrounding other people’s issues relating to their offspring is enough to put Dan and Lucy wanting their own.
I found in the first series the funniest elements came from Katie thinking she’s in labour and the difficulties in naming their baby daughter. My favourite joke came from the ever witty Lucy who responded to Katie’s name choices of Rose, Daisy and Lilly by responding “ask Gardener’s Question Time.” It was round this point where Lucy became my favourite character in the show due to sense of humour.
The conclusion of the first series was very strong and like any good comedy it had dramatic elements too, when Lucy thinks she’s pregnant. Their whole attitude to parenting; “we will be spending a lot of time at Centre Parcs” and pregnancy “what do you do with that lolly stick?” “Stick it under your tongue”, were typical of a couple who had decided long ago she was never going to have children, which made her lines even more amusing. The series ends on sort of a cliff-hanger, depending on which way you took Lucy’s line: “I think we are going to be okay?” meant that either they were going to be as they were and there would be another series (which is the way I think most would see it as) but the uncertainly in Lucy’s voice as she says it could suggest otherwise.
What was nice about the second series was that it sort of comes around in full circle; it develops past the new baby storylines to come back to it, when in the final episode Andy and Katie announce that they are going to be having another baby. In the meantime, however, we are introduced to more characters and more storylines as Dan and Lucy attempt to mix with other non parent couples, despite not really liking them. We are introduced to Steve and Linda, a very boastful and unlikable couple who host a dinner party, where Dan and Lucy attempt to meet new people. As you would expect in sitcom land the consequences are disastrous, especially when Lucy and Dan attempt to thrown one of their own. Leaving them yet again feeling isolated as they don’t like the people who interact in the ‘grown up world’ but are left out in the cold with their friends who have children.
On the whole, the storylines get better in the second series and the show really does start to come into its own. While the actors playing Lucy, Dan, Andy (Tony Gardener) all stay the same, Samantha Spiro, lends her voice to Katie, replacing Meera Syal. While as we have previously briefly discussed recasts in sitcom can prove to be a very tricky business, I barley even noticed the change (I guess it is less obvious than on telly) so it made no difference whatsoever.
Series three now, and once again we have a new Katie, this time voiced by Auntie Val herself, Tracy-Ann Oberman. I preferred Oberman as Katie, I thought she suited the role slightly better and maybe I am biased as she was in a recent episode of my favourite Drama New Tricks and was brilliant (it may also because I prefer her as an actress anyway.) Again it doesn’t make much difference and is hardly noticeable.
In the final series of the sitcom, you can feel the dynamic of the show really start to change as Dan and Lucy begin to question if they should in fact consider having children as a part of their life. Of course some things never change as they are still playing agony aunt and uncle to their friends and family, hardly having a chance to reflect on what they really want out of life.
As the series goes on it expands in depth and without spoiling anything it gets emotional (tears really are needed). Every actor involved in the heartbreaking storyline was terrific, especially David Tennant, who made me cry. The issues are really well crafted and beautifully handled.
Like all good comedy that reflects real life the juxtaposition of seriousness, tragedy and comedy. This was done by re introducing the ‘delightful’ Steve and Linda. Who force the couple to get back in touch with their witty sides. Of course all good things must come to an end, and the same can be said of this delightful sitcom. While it doesn’t end on a definite high, the situation improves and leaves us smiling once more.
In a way I would have liked to have seen this played out on our screens as it really would have made a great television programme. But then again, if it was between that or a fourth series or even just a one off episode to catch up with the couple who I really took a shine to, then it’s the latter every time!