We’re all ‘Not Going Out’ this Christmas..!
Wednesday: Not Going Out Christmas Special; (BBC One, 9pm)
With the exception of Red Dwarf, which had a 10-year break, and Birds of a Feather which had 16-year hiatus, Not Going Out is currently Britain’s longest-running sitcom.
Such is its popularity these days, many people forget that the show was actually cancelled in April 2009, before the BBC reversed decision in the face of strong DVD sales and an online petition.
It returned triumphantly in 2011, and over the next seven series, five-million strong audiences have lapped it up.
With an 11th series already in the can, the steadfast sitcom continues on its merry way. However, it is almost unrecognisable from the show that debuted way back in 2006.
Lee Mack still appears as hapless hero Lee, but he has swapped his flat in the Docklands for a house in suburbia which he shares with wife Lucy (Sally Bretton) and their three children.
Despite the show getting a pummelling from some critics and members of the public, Mack isn’t concerned if the show now appeals to different viewers.
“I honestly never think about the audience,” he says.
“I wouldn’t know who’s watching it, and frankly I don’t care, so long as enough people are.
“I just think, ‘Do I like the final product?’ and then hope that enough people have got the same sense of humour.”
Over the years, the Not Going Out Christmas Special has become a comedy highlight of the festive TV schedules.
Since the first special in 2007, we’ve seen Lee buy a murder mystery game, share a kiss with Lucy under the mistletoe, head to an old house in the country which used to belong to his dead aunt, tie the knot, fall victim to a robber, face a yuletide disaster over a present, participate in a variety show, and hitch a ride with a lorry driver before jumping off a ferry.
In the 2009 special, Absent Father Christmas, Lee’s loveable but useless father Frank (Bobby Ball) turned up at the flat unannounced, asking to borrow £500 from his son.
Lee wanted him out, but when Frank announced that he was dying, Lucy told Lee that he should make an effort to get to know his dad.
Later, on a rollercoaster, Frank admitted that he wasn’t really at death’s door, and turned up regularly in later episodes to cause more chaos for his son.
As well as being festive and funny, this year’s Christmas episode of Not Going Out will be especially poignant, as Ball, who played Frank in 18 episodes spanning a decade, passed away in October.
“I’m utterly shocked and devastated to lose my mate Bobby like this,” Mack said at the time.
“I filmed with him just a few weeks ago and he was his usual funny and cheeky self.
“To get to work with one of my childhood comedy heroes was great. “But to call him a friend was even better. Rest In Peace Bobby x.”
For this year’s holiday special, Frank meets up with his son and daughter-in-law on New Year’s Eve.
They’re joined by Lucy’s pompous father Geoffrey (Geoffrey Whitehead), her mother Wendy (Deborah Grant), and friends Toby (Hugh Dennis) and Anna (Abigail Cruttenden) as they wait for the traditional midnight… trifle.
Everything goes swimmingly until someone comes up with the bright idea for a new parlour game, one that involves telling each other how they can improve their behaviour and what New Year’s resolutions they should be making.
And that may include the downtrodden Toby making suggestions to uptight Anna – which is not a wise move.
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