Saturday, 31 January 2009

PLUS ONE 1.4 – "Competition Winner"

Saturday, 31 January 2009
The concept could easily run out of steam any second, but for now Plus One's doing a good job keeping itself alive. This week, Rob (Daniel Mays) decides to try and woo a beautiful celebrity date for his ex's wedding and, with the help of brother Rich (Nigel Harman), lowers himself to using a schoolboy as a fake, disabled "competition winner" to get closer to George Clooney's own ex, model Lisa Snowdon.

"Competition Winner" was fairly redundant in the wider picture – as it didn't really develop any of the regular characters, unlike previous episodes. This was a particular shame, as it seemed like it was going to focus on Rich, but his role in the story was rather perfunctory. Still, despite being mid-series filler at heart, "Competition Winner" managed to produce a few comedy highlights: the gloriously foulmouthed schoolboy was good value, an incident involving a nut allergy was a Farrelly Brothers-style moment of chaos, and guest-star Lisa Snowdon didn't embarrass herself in the acting stakes. Well, she certainly did better than stiff Jamelia last week, anyway, and her entrance in a sexy blue dress certainly delivered.

Again, Plus One overcame its problems because of the engaging performances, the occasional gem of dialogue ("... you have a face like a balloon full of shit"), and its signature playfulness with narrative and format (the fantasy sequences, Rob breaking the fourth wall, reality television parodies, the fact every episode's essentially a flashback from the opening scene of Rob's inevitably misfortune.) Throw in some bad-taste humour – like Rob's photographer friend Paul (Steve John Shepherd) rather creepily taking photo's of Rebecca's (Ingrid Oliver) boobs as she breast-feeds her baby – and it's a fizzy half-hour of immature japery that works very well.

And through it all, we've somehow become caught up in Rob's plan to upstage his ex at her wedding, despite the fact she hasn't really done anything terribly wrong. As far as we know, anyway. Indeed, the fact she's invited Rob to her nuptials could even be seen as an olive branch, with unintended insensitivity? A moment when Lisa Snowdon agrees to become Rob's "plus one" earned an unexpected catharsis when it occurred, too... before, tragically, Rob's underhand ways to reach that point caught up with him.

29 January 2009
Channel 4, 11.05pm

Writers: Tim Allsop & Stewart Williams
Director: Sarah O'Gorman

Cast: Daniel Mays (Rob Black), Duncan James (Himself), Miranda Raison (Linsey), Ingrid Oliver (Rebecca Black), Nigel Harman (Rich Black), Steve John Shepherd (Paul), Ruth Bradley (Laura) & Lisa Snowdon (Herself)