You can instantly tell that Chris Ramsey, who plays Jack in new BBC2 sitcom Hebburn, is a stand up comedian. It’s not that he’s funny (although he is), or that he has good timing and delivery (although he does). It’s his hair.
I spent a lot of time this August reviewing stand up at the Edinburgh Fringe for the very purple Northern comedy website Giggle Beats. I went to see 24 comedians- all male, and 23 of them had the same haircut as Ramsey. You know the one: a sideswept fringe, short bits on top, straggly on the side.
Imagine One Direction having a fight with Justin Bieber in a severe gale and you’re halfway there.
Haircuts aside, Hebburn is a pleasant, witty sitcom that’s certainly worth your time. The initial episode followed ‘journalist’ Jack (don’t be silly! He’s clearly a comedian. He has comedian hair!) as he travels back to his small home town in the North East to introduce his new bird, Sarah, played by Fresh Meat’s Kimberley Nixon.
It’s worth noting at this point that Hebburn is a real town, even though the Independent described it as ‘fictional’ in their preview. Yes, central Londoners: council terraces, cheeky kids who resell stolen DVDs and fat men in string vests are real, I’m afraid.
To put it in language that you might understand- Hebburn is like those places in London you don’t go to because you’re worried someone will nick your frappacino.
Jack’s a typical small town kid who’s grown up, moved away and ‘made something’ of himself, although of course his family don’t see it like that, asking him when he’s going to get a proper job. They immediately take to Sarah though, although the fact she’s Jewish causes some alarm and confusion. Jack’s mum (Gina McKee) runs into the kitchen and chucks all their bacon away, before punching holes in all the bread rolls to make bagels.
Well, they’re certainly not anti-Semitic. Embarrassingly over accommodating, perhaps- but not anti-Semitic.
The bagel scene seemed like the high point for quite a while, as after that it bumbled along like a fairly standard half hour of likeable comedy. Vic Reeves plays Jack’s dad, but he was quite underused, while Gina McKee (Jack’s mum) was probably slightly overused given she simply could not do a Geordie accent. At all.
Jack’s ‘fun loving’ (i.e. slutty) sister Vicki was a bit of a caricature as well and it all started to feel a bit like a slightly clunky mash up of Phoenix Nights and the Royle Family – without the redeeming features of either- until the end.
The end was marvellous, and more fool me for not seeing it coming. I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t got around to watching it yet, but basically it involved a massive secret being revealed, a dead body and someone being sick in a bag.
Oh, not to mention the worst possible timed rendition of (I Just) Died In Your Arms by Cutting Crew in the history of ever.
If that’s the standard we’ll be getting for the rest of the series then I suggest you don’t miss another episode. But let’s hope the fantastic Vic Reeves gets a bit more airtime in coming weeks, despite his ‘knackered back’.