I try not to think about Coventry and it’s not much of an effort. The last time it significantly impinged on my consciousness was during the extraordinary run of The Armstrongs, Coventry’s third best double glazing outfit. Now we have Home Time, Coventry’s first sitcom. Its lifeblood is the comedy of disappointment. Well of course it is – it’s Cov. It’s about a girl who fled from the city’s clutches aged just 17, admitted failure and returned home. It’s been 12 years since Gaynor Jacks (Emma Fryer) dropped everything to run off to London. The year was 1997. One lousy note to one lousy friend was all she left. Miss Thing thought she could escape. She thought wrong.
"Gaynor’s not on crack. She’s just a gimpy Cov shitsack who got ideas above her station and now has to eat the humblest of pie while being driven around in the back of the Specials’ car in the Ghost Town video as chalk faced goons from her past follow in hot pursuit."
Gaynor is back in her teenage bedroom and nothing has changed. A hand painted image on her bedroom door of East 17’s Brian Harvey silently mocks her. Her smothering Irish mother Brenda (Marian McLoughlin) is convinced her daughter is on crack. She’s really not – she’s just a gimpy Cov shitsack who got ideas above her station and now has to eat the humblest of pie while being driven around in the back of the Specials’ car from the Ghost Town video as chalk faced goons from her past follow in hot pursuit.
First port of call for Gaynor is Mel (Hayley Jayne Standing), her oldest friend. Mel is understandably still sore at her friend for perpetuating the sick joke that there is any escape from Coventry. She still lives with her parents, makes a pittance through babysitting and is a 10th Dan passive aggressive. Though sometimes she regresses to good old active aggressive. "I can do what I like you bastard traitor!" she tells Gaynor. It’s not true – she can barely tie her shoelaces. This girl is way more useless than Gaynor.
“All DJs are struggling in that they are struggling with the truth that DJing is not a proper job and they corrupt and debase all culture, truth and enlightenment”
But as they are both as fucked as each other they patch things up and agree to go for a drink with the rest of the gang. They must first negotiate the wrath of Becky (Kerry Godliman) who is essentially a reimagining of The Apprentice’s Ruth Badger. Becky’s a ball busting marketing horror who sees her success as proof you don’t need to leave Cov to make it big. And you can get laid like a mother. "270 sexual partners since 96," she tells Gaynor "Including webcam". This girl doesn’t fuck around. Which is to say that she does.
Then there’s Kelly (Rebekah Staton), the struggling DJ. Of course, all DJs are struggling in that they are struggling with the uncomfortable truth that DJing is not a proper job, they corrupt and debase all culture, truth and enlightenment and that pretty much anyone can do it. But Kelly is struggling to get regular work. She is an unreconstructed 90s clubber who gives Gaynor the warmest welcome of the crew though the competition from Becky and Mel isn’t exactly fierce. Recrimination, bitterness and pathos abound. It’s a good night out.
"Pulling is an obvious influence – girls bonding and brawling in various states of disarray; that weird mixture of support, resentment and dysfunction that is female friendship."
And this was a good opener. Pulling is an obvious influence – girls bonding and brawling in various states of disarray; that weird mixture of support, resentment and dysfunction that is female friendship. The BBC unforgivably yanked Pulling and I wonder if this is their belated attempt to make amends. Sticking it straight on to BBC2 shows they mean business.
Emma Fryer and Neil Edmond‘s script has some terrific touches and though there were a couple of moments where it tanked (Gaynor turning up to the pub in a Geri Halliwell Union Jack dress was as big a contradiction of her character as you can imagine), opening episodes have to juggle exposition, introducing characters, establishing relationships and bringing the funny. All things considered, they pull it off well. More, please.
The best thing about it: The return of the Badger
The worst thing about it: The reminder that Coventry exists
The verdict on Home Time: Could be a keeper (like David Icke, Coventry City keeper 1970-72 – whatever happened to him?)
Marks out of 10: 7.5
Imagined: Wednesday, September 16, 2009