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TV review: The Sixties don't swing for Mr Sloane

The high point of this show was the opening credits.

Nick Frost and Olivia Colman in Mr Sloane
Nick Frost and Olivia Colman in Mr Sloane

Written and directed by Robert B Weide it said, and my heart erupted in warm fizzlings of anticipation because this is the man known for his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm - a show so utterly perfect that a red rope should be erected around theTV whenever it's on.

So maybe it's my own fault that I found Mr Sloane to be a disappointment. Perhaps I expected too much when I saw that particular name on screen?

However, there were plenty of other big names jostling behind it: the stars of the show are Nick Frost and Olivia Colman, with Peter Serafinowicz in there too, but these twinkly talents of British acting did little other than create some mild, gentle and unmemorable comedy.

It's set in the sixties and the first episode begins with a botched suicide attempt. Mr Sloane, overweight, bespectacled and glum, climbs onto a chair, slips his neck in a noose, then steps off into death. He jerks and kicks and chokes - but then the ceiling caves in and he thumps to the floor, feeling foolish but very much alive. As he gasps on the carpet the phone rings. 'Oh, nothing much,' he says into the handset and is soon down the pub with his 'cockney geezer' mates who booze and smoke and make fun of tubby old Sloane, whose wife has left him in order to 'find herself'.

His life, then, is composed of humiliation, sadness and self-loathing. He goes home to slump on the couch, drinking beer and eating an entire chocolate cake and then falling asleep in front of the TV, but he still manages to jump awake and stand for the national anthem for this is 1960s Britain where we still did respectful things like salute the Queen in our beer-dampened pants.

An hour is then somehow stretched out where sad Mr Sloane bumbles around, cutting himself shaving, speaking to a nosy neighbour, getting sacked from a new job and then meeting a pretty girl in a shop.

Most of these scenes were shot in a hazy, almost sepia, light, bringing to mind a dowdier, slower Britain, one which smelled of cigarette smoke and Rich Tea biscuits.

These scenes were interspersed with flashbacks to a younger, trimmer Sloane when he was still with his wife. The scenes here were sharper and brighter, so maybe we were being presented with both sides of 'Swinging London': the excess and the colour running alongside the poverty and the dirt and the long hangover from the war. Or maybe I'm just scratching around to find something deeper than a simple and pleasant comedy about a vague and unhappy man. The show just felt so flimsy I couldn't help looking for something else.

I even tried to look deeper when they wheeled out the old joke where Mr Sloane asks a fat woman when her baby is due. I scratched my head: is that joke there for its own sake, or is it planted to show Mr Sloane as someone who is, like the joke, slow and dull and predictable? Surely we're not expected to genuinely laugh, are we? It was a joke so utterly mundane that it sent me scrambling for reasons as to why it was included - and that's when I realised I was making excuses for the show: well, there must be a reason why that's there! There must be a reason, I thought. Mustn't there?

Of course, watching Mr Sloane it was impossible not to think of that other 60s drama currently showing on SKY Atlantic, Mad Men - even if it was just to think, 'God, wish I was watching Mad Men'. Where Mr Sloane seems to be dependent on plot, Mad Men is the opposite. Nothing happens in one episode; you need to watch it over weeks and months and seasons to see its great storylines unfurl and its characters blossom and crash. It certainly shuns anything as pedestrian as 'man tries to hang himself but, oops-a-daisy, slips off a chair' and then 'man is glum but then goes into a shop and meets a pretty girl. Now let's munch our popcorn and see what happens'.

How I sighed for the texture and depth of Mad Men when watching watery Mr Sloane. Even when you strip the meat of Mad Men away and just leave the trivia it can still fascinate. I can be absorbed in the sumptuous outfits or the clunky telephone by a character's bed or the cavalier way someone left litter behind after a picnic. Or - on another level entirely - I can while away the time by saying with urgency 'fine looking man!' whenever Don Draper appears on screen, whilst my boyfriend sinks lower in his chair and mumbles 'cut it out.'

But there were no such trivial distractions with Mr Sloane: the clothes were dowdy and the men were tubby. And neither were there decent and absorbing distractions: the jokes were tired and the drama was thin.

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