Sky are taking comedy VERY seriously at the moment (investing £600 million in it over the next few years) and Starlings looks like a stab at the quality, Sunday night comfort TV end of the spectrum. Though sadly not the comedy end of the spectrum.
My least favourite overused stereotype in life/TV is how the British turn to tea when things are tough. This is INSANE. Tea is a dull, weak, bitter disappointment. Gin’s much better.
So seeing Brendan Coyle (on the back of his starring role as Deputy Dawg in Downton Abbey) channeling Mrs Doyle from Father Ted in the first scene of Starlings – the impending birth of his grandchild, right there in the living room – didn’t exactly fill me with optimism. At least Mrs Doyle’s constant offers of tea were a piss-take.
Next he’ll be recommending a nice walk to calm d… yup, there it is! Aargh.
Tea aside, the birth did provide a handy way to introduce us to the whole family as Brendan, who plays de facto patriarch Terry, walked the newborn round the room speaking to everyone in turn.
An aside from next to me on the sofa – ‘I might not need dessert, this is so sickly sweet’…although we were thrown a slight curve ball when the new mother- Terry’s palely winsome daughter Bell- pointed out that she’s not with the baby’s father any more. *eyebrow raises*
After the ad break, Terry offered another cup of tea. This could get tea-dious. Which is a funnier joke than anything Starlings can offer us.
The producers’ overwhelming desire to make something as loveable as The Darling Buds of May, or at least Doc Martin, meant that every time you think there might be a gag, you were served a heart-warming anecdote instead.
This show will live or die on whether you find the warm, honest, crinkled-eyed characters appealing enough in the first, (overly self-conscious) 60 minutes to come back next week. They all look and sound like the kind-hearted northern family you never had – in my case, anyway, soft southern tea-hating ponce that I am- and it certainly fulfils the non-threatening Sunday night remit.
Except… the series can’t be a series without tension, and there’s a real sense that this first episode is there just to build up your sympathetic reactions to all the characters. The ‘next week on Starlings’ clip makes it look like things could get a lot deeper and more interesting than this anodyne, soft-focus introduction suggests.
Will I watch it? Dunno. Will you? Leave your thoughts below.