Not Going Out (Christmas Special).2017. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Lee Mack, Sally Breton, Bobby Ball, Geoffrey Whitehead, Hugh Dennis, Abigail Cruttenden, Deborah Grant, Keith Barron.

A Christmas special, especially one in which comedy writers are expected to create, can go either way, either it is one that defies the convention of the season and goes all out to produce anarchy and chaos or it submits and goes down the road of the pre-fabricated Christmas tree, complete with decorations and a rather sickly angel dressed in colours of Battenberg Cake rather than the off white purity. Either way, it has to be endured and if that is the case then chaos, anarchy and slight resentment are always the finer treat to laugh alongside.

Not Going Out, a series that perhaps defies many television viewer’s beliefs is one such case in which anarchy rules perfectly, a credit to its writers across its time on screen. The spiky relationship and quibbling scenarios that are created are complex but one born of true humour wearing the down the inevitable connecting family conflict on Christmas Day to great effect.

The inevitable thing about Christmas is the lack of communication, or at least the perceived lack of it, high expectation, especially from children and perhaps warring couples drive home the need for more and more to be outlaid for at this time of year and for the makers of Not Going Out, that crutch that we hold onto to gain, or keep people’s affections on our side is very much the key to good comedy. Presents given in misunderstanding, of not wanting to displease or find lacking in enough spirit can lead to mirth, well intentioned observational comedy, and as Lee Mack and Sally Breton show in this Christmas special, misunderstanding is always the best way to see the festive period in.

It is always a pleasure to see Bobby Ball on television and alongside series regulars Geoffrey Whitehead, Hugh Dennis, Abigail Cruttenden and Deborah Grant, the sense of friendly antagonism was taken a step further on in to the dark of family and the seemingly modern meaning of Christmas; a poignant feeling perhaps with the sad loss of British television stalwart Keith Barron, making his final appearance in a memorable role as the sardonic play by the book cashier.

A very good Christmas special from a team of actors caught very much in the situation they have created; Not Going Out at this time of year is an emotional rollercoaster to enjoy.

Ian D. Hall