By Phil Jones @PhilLlwynog
We’ve reached series three of the sitcom featuring Nick Helm as a paunchy unemployed musician, who forms an unlikely relationship with now fifteen-year-old socially awkward nephew, Errol (Elliot Speller-Gillott). Not only has the actor who plays Elliot really ‘shot up’; it also allows the actor to deliver more adult orientated material. There have been parallels made to the movie “About a Boy”, Errol pretending to be Andy’s son for example, however Andy is no Hugh Grant lookalike, for that we have to be truly thankful. This is a scruffy, dirty and below the belt version, although I can see the link with the more saccharin family safe Nick Hornby movie.
It seemed that the first and second series of ‘Uncle’ were a vehicle for Nick’s very amusing songs, which don’t feature so much here. Series one and two, revolved around dreamy sequences allowing time for the songs, and great words. ‘I like like you’, has stayed with me, which featured cute and clever lyrics, written by Helm, and delivered by both Andy and Errol, whilst trying to charm Errol’s female crush.
... When I think about you, you make my chest feel all-tight.
I have to shake my inhaler, suck with all of my might.
I see you walk down the hall, but I don't think you see me.
I cannot focus in science, you give me ADH-D.
I feel my temperature rise, I see my grades start to drop,
I'm near the bottom of class, I used to be near the top.
You make me sick in my mouth; you make me come out in hives,
You put my stomach in knots; I have to loosen my tie…
In this multi-layered episode, Andy (Helm) stumbles into a drug-fueled whirlwind relationship with so called singer, Jasmine (Emily Bevan), and suddenly finds himself engaged. Errol lets a girl think he’s “experienced” in an attempt to look cool at school, and Sam (Andy’s sister played by Daisy Haggard) has to find a way of telling the family some life-changing news, the fact she has cancer. Everyone is struggling with whether to clear the air or hold on to his or her secrets. It isn’t long before the lies spin out of control and Andy has to face up to some hard truths for the first time in his life.
Andy has now become more of a failing producer, than a musician, forced to write drivel for boy bands and spoilt rich bitches. Now living in his sister’s basement, a blatant metaphor for Andy still being at the bottom of the social pile, this latest series has more bite, than previously, and is more story led than before.
The series balances very adult humour with more serious issues beautifully. It’s one of the smartest sit-coms in a while, and makes a mockery of the poor and juvenile one-liners delivered by sit-coms such as the now moribund ‘Not Going Out’. Give young actors good lines, and they can deliver. My favourite here was delivered by young actress Fern Deacon as Errol meets his female equivalent at school. “Listen Errol, what I lack in social nuance I make up for with blunt honesty … you fascinate me”.
Helm has plenty of onscreen presence and his friendship with Errol is strangely touching and, most importantly, it makes you want to keep watching. As Nick Helm himself says, “They obviously are an actual family, but they create this unconventional revised family unit. That's what's nice about it."
If you like your sit-com’s, drug-fueled, chaotic and rude, but with sophisticated and edgy scripts then it may be time for you tune into ‘Auntie’s ‘Uncle’.
Available on iPlayer, and repeated late at night on BBC One.