Free Agents, Channel 4

Did we like it?
Another of the Comedy Showcase pilots that has had a series commissioned, the always excellent Sharon Horgan stars as the recently bereaved Helen, with Stephen Mangan as her colleague Alex, an acting agent who has just walked out on his young family. We pick up with them after their one-night stand together, and things aren’t going too well. With the room to move that a series gives, this didn’t try to cram too much in, so the variation in tone that affected the pilot didn’t surface. Characters were introduced well and situations nicely set-up. Thankfully it hasn’t lost the jet-black comedy that got it commissioned in the first place.

What was good about it?
• Stephen Mangan was ideal casting as the temporarily homeless Alex. Equally as keen to find a semi-permanent bed for the night as he is to take things further with Helen, his post-coital attempts at humour had us squirming. Nobody does the “putting your foot in it” schtick better than Mangan, and thankfully all the good lines from the pilot were retained. His comments on seeing that Helen’s bedside drawer contains quite a few condoms were buttock-clenchingly embarrassing: “You’re saying that ‘This is 2009, I can buy hundreds of condoms – it doesn’t make me a slut!’” To which Helen replies, “Or it’s me saying, “It’s 2008, I can buy condoms to have sex with my fiancé.” (The recently deceased Pete) The camera pans back to reveal the bedroom covered in photos of Helen and Pete.
• Sharon Horgan was great as the sardonic Helen – trying to let Alex down as gently as possible. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to sleep together. Ever again.”
• Anthony Head as Alex and Helen’s foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed boss, “You’ve been bashing some gash, haven’t you?!” and “Did you dip it in the brown?”
• Matthew Holness (aka Garth Marenghi) as the inexplicably popular Dan – “All these other agents are wimps and pussies. I’m not a pussy, I’m a c*nt!”
• Some of Alex’s lines were real peaches: “I don’t normally cry after sex. Though Before and During is pretty much standard.” “I don’t do wild. I do cautious. And inhibited.”

What was bad about it?
• Some of Horgan’s outfits were ‘interesting’. Her red gloves made her look like she was wearing a pair of Marigolds.

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