Not Going Out returns for new six-part series

Friday:Not Going Out; (BBC1, 9. 30pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 5:00 pm
Lee and Lucy with the painting of Frank
Lee and Lucy with the painting of Frank

Lee Mack’s fab sitcom returns for a welcome six-part new series.

It begins with a tribute to the late Bobby Ball, who played Lee’s father Frank, and it’s conducted in fittingly funny fashion.

It’s a tricky balancing act, ensuring you make a heartfelt episode while still generating laughs.

Sadly it’s something Mack and other comedians have become familiar with in recent years.

Mack in particular is deft when it comes to finding the humour in almost anything.

In terms of the show’s narrative, it has been a year since Frank’s death (Ball himself passed away in 2020 after testing positive for Covid-19, but had filmed his scenes for series 11 already).

To mark the anniversary, Wendy (Deborah Grant), having rediscovered a passion for painting, decides to create a portrait of him in oils.

Geoffrey (Geoffrey Whitehead), usually the first to find fault in things, is uncharacteristically enamoured by the piece, but Lee and Lucy (Sally Bretton) can’t stand it.

A shame, then, that it ends up hanging on their wall.

Together they hatch a plot to lose the ‘artwork’ but somehow without either Wendy or Geoffrey noticing – cue much hilarity, and many well-crafted contrivances, very much in the style of all the best classic British comedies.

Originally, Mack had hoped to kick off the series with Frank’s funeral – even suggesting that Ball’s long-term comedy companion Tommy Cannon could play the priest conducting the service.

Mack told reporters at a medical fundraiser soon after Ball’s passing, “I’m thinking of starting the next series with a funeral, and Tommy – I’m thinking of having him as the priest, and also bring some comics of that generation.

“Bring in all his mates, as in my dad’s mates, who I’ve never met.

“That will be the story.

“I want to see a scene which opens up with Sid Little, Freddie Parrot-Face Davies, and the like, all just sitting round.

“It would be marvellous.”

Ball first appeared in the role as a guest in 2009, before becoming a regular cast member – not to mention an audience favourite.

Something about Mack’s comedy style really does convince us that he’s descended from Ball’s world.

Certainly he was inspired by the era, remaking upon hearing of Ball’s death, “to get to work with one of my childhood comedy heroes was great.

“But to call him a friend was even better”.

Although it appears the funeral episode will not be going ahead, this is a somewhat more left-field way of commemorating the entertainment legend. However, given the comedy potential that this storyline contains, we can only imagine that Ball would have approved.

And the painting in question – well, it certainly deserves pride of place somewhere, if not in Lee and Lucy’s front room (not that we blame them).

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