Colin From Accounts: TV Review

Colin From Accounts: TV Review

Where the theatrical romcom seems to be undergoing a moment of crisis – struggling to honor the patented formulas of yore while meeting the demands of the modern multiplex crowd – TV looks to have adapted more rapidly and skilfully to the recent remapping of gender relations and personal boundaries.

One creative response has been to engineer intentionally cringier, Larry David-influenced variations on the romcom theme: shows reliant upon the acquired taste of foot-in-mouth, where far from star-crossed lovers make altogether unsmooth progress towards happiness, traversing an ever-shifting minefield of social mores.

Eight-part Aussie comedy “Colin From Accounts” – currently wooing BBC viewers after debuting on Antipodean streaming service Binge late last year – follows in the footsteps of the much-adored Sharon Horgan/Rob Delaney vehicle “Catastrophe.”

Again, we watch – sometimes through fingers – as frazzled folk inch awkwardly towards intimacy, only this time they’re united not by accidental pregnancy, but the stray dog that lends the show its name. One early indicator of the determinedly perverse course the show plots through modern love is that “Colin From Accounts” thereby sticks itself with perhaps the least appealing title in 21st century television.

Such a match demands not a meet-cute but a full-on comedy of errors. While driving through Sydney’s hipster suburbs, microbrewer Gordon (Patrick Brammall) stops to let student nurse Ashley (Harriet Dyer) cross the road in front of him. She, with not uncharacteristic impulsiveness, flashes a breast by way of thanks; Gordon, who has been single for some time, is so distracted he promptly runs over and badly injures the pooch. A combination of extortionate vet bills and a fusspot landlord obliges the pair to cohabit, while also establishing a parallel between the dog’s gradual return to fitness and its keepers’ fresh (if painfully tentative) romantic start.

It’s a learning process, above all else. Gordon’s full name, we learn, is Gordon Crapp; he tends to forget about important bills, and his 40-something body is falling into dishevelment. Ashley, for her part, has mother issues and is prone to sleepwalking, leading to one disastrous nocturnal incident involving Gordon’s bedside cabinet. By contrast, Colin presents as comparatively low maintenance: he just needs his bowels manually expressed from time to time, that’s all. As you may already have gathered, we are many, many miles from Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn exchanging polished repartee over cocktails on a moonlit balcony.

It may be relatable, however, if you’ve stockpiled disastrous dating stories, or can’t get through the day without stepping on at least one rake. A real-life couple doubling as writer-showrunners, Brammall and Dyer here expand the “messy women” subgenre (“Girls,” “Bridesmaids,” “Fleabag”) into a more egalitarian “messy everything.” The vet’s receptionist reveals her family used GoFundMe to send a relative to a euthanasia clinic. A doctor proves more interested in televised golf than footage of Gordon’s cystoscopy. Even the leads’ age gap comes into comic play: Ashley’s “death doula” mom Lynelle (Helen Thomson) tells Gordon he appears “more in my swimming pool than my daughter’s.” Everyone’s got filter issues.

It’s understandable why Brammall and Dyer cast themselves: it’d seem cruel to inflict these humiliations on anybody else. There’s a version of “Colin From Accounts” that never developed beyond gurgling writers’ room exercise, forcing these characters onto the most inappropriate track in every situation. (Ashley’s duties include perineal suturing for new mothers, so the possibilities in at least one area are endless.) Yet the leads bring an uncommonly light touch to even the more outré material, and magic an oddly winning, befuddled chemistry: that of two people who don’t understand how they’ve ended up here, let alone the person standing across from them.

They surround themselves with gifted players and fully formed comic personalities: the poised Genevieve Hegney and the bluff Michael Logo are fine foils for Brammall at the microbrewery, while Darren Gilshenan charts a hilariously sleazy descent as Lynelle’s new beau Lee. And yet the ick neither sticks nor repels.

Rotating directors (Matthew Moore, Trent O’Donnell and Madeleine Dyer) ensure it’s mostly sunny in this Sydney, and Danielle Boesenberg and Stafford Wales’ brisk editing keeps cutting away before agony sets in, typical of the show’s breezy, no-worries ethos. Whether your trouble’s romantic, professional or merely testicular, “Colin From Accounts” insists, nothing is unendurable. (Look at little Colin, toddling along.)

The show is so economical in setting up its characters – and not just for a fall – that halfway through this first run you realize Brammall and Dyer have achieved what it took Ricky Gervais and Quinta Brunson two seasons to master: get us caring for these stumblebums, and acknowledge that even bemused affection must count for something. Rather than in crisis, then, “Colin From Accounts” sees the romcom entering into renegotiation, by recalibrating expectations in line with everyday reality.

Occasionally, love is polished repartee, cocktails, a moonlit balcony. More often, Brammall and Dyer counter, it’s a smelly dog with wheels for back legs. Either way, once you’ve let it in, the place wouldn’t feel the same without it.

“Colin From Accounts” is currently airing on BBC Two on Tuesday nights; all eight episodes are available to stream on the BBC iPlayer and were made available to review.

ProductionExecutive producers: Patrick Brammall, Ian Collie, Harriet Dyer, Rob Gibson, Alison Hurbert-Burns, Trent O’Donnell, Brian Walsh. Producers: Ian Collie, Rob Gibson. Line producer: Kevin Greene. Consulting producer: Ally Henville.Cast: Patrick Brammall, Harriet Dyer, Zak (as Colin), Emma Harvie, Genevieve Hegney, Michael Logo, Helen Thomson, Tai Hara.