Tuesday 24 January 2017

Last night’s TV: Threesome & Pan Am

Diarmuid Doyle saw a lot of Daisy, Amy Huberman’s character in The Clinic, in her new comedy venture

Published 18/10/2011 | 08:30

Pan Am

In Threesome (Comedy Central) Amy Huberman plays Alice Heston, an emotionally stunted character on the verge of 30 whose life consists of a dizzying round of drink, drugs and irresponsibility.

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It’s as though Daisy O’Callaghan, her character in The Clinic, had never been left a share in the business, changed her name and moved to London to engage in a life of sensual pleasure.



There are similarities between Alice and Daisy, two ditzy but likeable layabouts determined to avoid the cruel demands of ordinary existence.



Huberman is expert at playing good-natured exuberance while leaving open the possibility that all this gratuitous fun-loving is done as an escape from a complicated past, or family background.



Her mother, played by Pauline McLynn as Mrs Doyle’s dipsomaniac twin, is a nightmare, pushing champagne rather than tea on her reluctant daughter. Normally Alice would down the whole bottle, but she’s pregnant: responsibility beckons.



The pregnancy resulted from an impromptu threesome between Alice, her boyfriend Mitch and their gay friend Richie to celebrate Alice’s 30th birthday.



The milestone is more than she can bear – “you were Grand Theft Auto, now you’re Cluedo”, Richie explains to her – and the threesome, like the drink and drugs, is a way to avoid dealing with it.



Richie is “like a randy Ban Ki Moon”, Mitch observes after realising that his horny friend “had had a different nationality every night this week”.



Still, he’s self-aware enough to realise that if Alice has the baby, Richie will have to be the responsible one. “Alice, I mean this from the bottom of my heart – you’d be a terrible mother”, he tells her.



Mitch works as a part-time sperm donor, heading off to work every day armed with porn magazines. “You’re just jealous because I made a vocation out of my hobby”, he tells Richie.



He’s happy in his work until he receives a phone call one day informing him that he’s infertile. That’s the end of that job; more importantly, it’s the start of the realisation that Alice’s baby is Richie’s and not his.



Threesome is Comedy Central’s first scripted comedy and they’ve been promoting it proudly for the last few weeks alongside the new Ashton Kutcher-led Two And A Half Men and the arrival of Friends from E4.



They’re right to be proud. The show is a cut above much of the sitcom British television is delivering these days. The script, by Tom McRae, who’s been knocking around British tv for years – he’s done episodes of Dr Who, Casualty, Miss Marple – is sharp and his jokes are well-delivered by the small cast.



To go on from here and become something genuinely unmissable, Threesome will need to allow its characters to change and mature a bit more than they did in the first two episodes.



After the pregnancy was confirmed, Mitch proposed – “Will you marry me and have his baby?” – and the trio buried out all their drink and drugs in the back garden: “goodbye LSD and E, the MDMA and the very Special K”, Alice said in farewell.



But by the time the second episode was over, everything had been dug up again, and Richie and Mitch were off their heads again. Their refusal to face reality could become tiresome after a few episodes, but for now Threesome deserves the benefit of any doubts about its ability to have a successful future.



There are no doubts about the successful future of Pan Am (RTE2), which was very well-received on its American debut a few weeks ago.



Dubbed the Mile High Mad Men, it harks back to a time when air travel was fun – with spacious aeroplanes, free drinks and food, and friendly (sometimes very friendly) stewardesses. It must seem like science fiction to Michael O’Leary.



The first episode was built around an inaugural flight from New York to London, a claustrophobic way to introduce all the characters.



These included the Marx-studying stewardess Maggie, played by Christina Ricci, and her colleague Laura, a runaway bride who follows her sister Kate into the airline business. Kate is slightly jealous of Laura and much of the tension in the first episode came from the relationship between these two.



It’s a programme mainly about women. The men are cardboard clichés, lanterned- jawed pilots, straying husbands and mysterious CIA men, who nevertheless – this being the 1960s – have all the good jobs.



Pan Am is not as edgy or as clever as Mad Men –few shows are – but it has the appeal of a beautifully-filmed soap opera. Just the thing for winter Monday nights.



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