Two Doors Down


BBC2 SCOTLAND’S best comedy made a rare break for freedom last night, trading the usual Latimer Terrace front room of saintly Beth and soft as a 99 cone Eric for a hospital ward.

If comedy is all about the timing, the decision to air an episode that mentioned hospital infections while investigations are continuing into the death of two patients at the QEUH in Glasgow, was an odd one. Schedulers do not have the gift of foresight, and perhaps it would not have worked to substitute another episode, but still.

Christine (Elaine C Smith), in for a gallbladder op, was the centre of attention last night. It is usually booze-guzzling Cathy, the Venus man trap in heels, who dominates proceedings but she left after the first scene. Although this deprived viewers of the pleasure of seeing Cathy and Michelle (Doon Mackichan and Joy McAvoy) square up to each other like a Caledonian Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, it gave the others a chance to shine.

Christine had the pick of the lines. Politically incorrect as always, she could not praise the place or the staff highly enough before tearing them down again. “Everything’s disabled friendly in here. There are wee ramps everywhere. They’re a ******* nuisance.”

While some might have missed Cathy’s presence, Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp’s sitcom works best as an ensemble effort, an Abigail’s Party blend of characters, high camp and low farce. This episode being set in a hospital, there was plenty of scope for riper material which Carlyle and Sharp could not resist. Sure enough, the revelation that Christine had an en suite bathroom duly led to Alan (Graeme Stevens) taking the world’s loudest pee while everyone pretended not to hear Niagara Falls two feet away.

Two Doors Down gets away with material like this, and the frequent swearing, because care is taken to even out the sweet and sour. When Alan comes out of the bathroom, for instance, his partner Michelle went into mummy to toddler mode, asking if he had washed his hands. “Back in,” she scolded. Everyone knows a couple like this.

If that was not to your liking there was Christine in rare reflective mode (“What a mess, what have I done with my life?”), and Jonathan Watson, wonderful Watson, showing once again that Scottish comedy has only skimmed the surface of his talents. After his character Colin paid a heartfelt tribute to the NHS, Eric asked if he was still in Bupa. “Oh God aye,” he replied.

The finest five minutes came in a group riff about hospital woes they had known, with Michelle remembering the granny with a sparkle in her eyes. The way the scene turned out showed James McAvoy might have some competition from little sis soon on the serious drama front. As for Alan’s attempt to comfort her, “Do ye want a tangerine?”, how pure dead Scottish male was that?

Certainly, the jokes in this fourth series are easier to see coming than before, but by this stage in the game the comedy is coming more from the characters than the situation. They can still surprise us, as several did last night, and while that remains the case this is one comedy audiences will continue to welcome through the door.

Here’s hoping it is back to business as usual next week on the terrace. The rivalry between Cathy and Michelle is hotting up nicely, and now that Colin is becoming bolder in showing how he feels about the new neighbour on the block, this series can only end badly for someone. Oh good.