Don’t call it a comeback but Mark Nicholas (Andrew Scott) has come back to the dirty old town he grew up in. He escaped the cosy purgatory of limited horizons and made it all the way to London where he got a job, a haircut and sunglasses – the symbolic trifecta of scorched-earthing your roots. Upon removing said sunglasses as he approaches the family home the first thing he sees is policemen carrying out a body bag. Ah, there’s probably a completely innocent explanation. PC Ian from Shameless drops the bag and when Mark unzips it to have a peep his dead mother gazes up at him. “Welcome home, love” says Grandma Betty (Julia McKenzie) as he takes it all in. Well, I wouldn’t really call it much of a welcome Gran. I’ll tell you who wouldn’t mind being greeted by the sight of his dead mother. Jimmy Savile. He once said that the week he spent alone at home with his dead mother was the best week of his life but he is something of an outlier. He liked to refer to his mother as The Duchess but she swiftly became The Duchess of Pork during that long week where Jimmy achieved his lifelong ambition of boning her into the afterlife. Mark, as far as we can tell, has no such lofty ambitions but he would quite like to know why his parents have killed themselves with booze and pills in a suicide pact. That was the last thing anyone in The Town expected.
“He liked to refer to his mother as The Duchess but she swiftly became The Duchess of Pork during that long week where Jimmy achieved his lifelong ambition of boning her into the afterlife.”
Certainly not Mark’s stroppy 15-year-old sister Jodie (Avigail Tlalim). She found the ‘rents rent asunder in their beds as cold as the response Madonna gives a sample clearance request from Gwenda Stefanny. She wanders aimlessly around the streets and gets some piece of posh as to hang out with. Harry goes to the local priveleged nob’s school, a scholarship boy as it happens, not that anyone’s going to give a rat’s ass about that fine class nuance. They circle, they banter, they bond. She’s lost her parents but she’s made a friend. It’s a swings and roundabouts kind of day.
“She’s lost her parents but she’s made a friend. It’s a swings and roundabouts kind of day.”
The news of the baffling suicides spreads around The Town as shocking stories will and local scuttler Lucy (Kelly Adams), in the midst of a major boner jones, figures that despairing grieving Mark is exactly the man to provide it. Her logic is hard to fault so she, her friend Carly (Aisling Bea) and Mark’s old pal Jeff (Sam Troughton) have a laugh-every-three-hours foursome down the pub. So your dead parents then Mark, Lucy enquires, what’s all that about? Why would they do such a thing? I mean, who kills themselves am I right girls? Yeah, the ladies know what I’m talking about. FISTBUMP.
“The problem Mark is having, apart from being stuck drinking with life-threateningly dull provincial teeds he would gladly walk barefoot across napalm to avoid, is that he’s not certain his parents even committed suicide.”
The problem Mark is having, apart from being stuck drinking with life-threateningly dull provincial teeds he would gladly walk barefoot across napalm to avoid, is that he’s not certain his parents even committed suicide. The police take the Hendrix-Joplin level booze and pills ingestion and handholding old fucks at face value. “Listen boy. This shit happens. Sometimes there are no warning signs – put them both in the ground, get back to London and let us get on with our jobs” is their feeling. Mark isn’t buying it though. He unearths a text message to his parents saying “I know” and later finds pieces of paper around the house with the same message printed on them. Who knows what? And how does that relate to the two stiffs?
“If Clunes can keep his shit-smeared arse out of the papers will be voted in eternally like an electoral Groundhog Day. With a bit of luck he’ll be dead soon.”
It’s a funny old town alright and it makes sense that its Mayor is a bumbling dipsomaniac tub of shit. Len (Martin Clunes) is a popular but gaffe-prone figurehead who has that Boris Johnson affability that sees him through his alcoholic blackouts and triple incontinence. Len gives a eulogy at the funeral despite never having met them yet he still goes down a storm. Len figured out long ago that you don’t need policies or strategy when you’ve got personal charm. If Clunes can keep his shit-smeared arse out of the papers he will be voted in eternally like an electoral Groundhog Day. With a bit of luck he’ll be dead soon.
It’s an interesting, unfussed opener that smacks you with the premise in the first few minutes then gradually lets the fallout descend throughout the first hour. Andrew Scott was last seen winning a BAFTA for his nuanced ¹ understated ² Professor Moriarty in Sherlock and whilst a style like his is always going to have its detractors I think he’s pretty decent here. Clunes does Clunes as Clunes always does in his usual efficient Clunes manner and I’m fairly curious to know exactly how and why Tony and Kate met their makers and you know what they say about curiosity. It can act as an incentive to watch further episodes of a television programme.
The verdict on The Town: We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do. But first find out who killed Ma & Pa. And why the Mayor smells of poo-oooooo-ooo.
Marks out of 10: 7.5