Friday, 25 September 2009


Friday, 25 September 2009

[SPOILERS] After two weeks of anodyne but passable fare, Off The Hook serves up its first resounding dud. This week, Danny (Jonathan Bailey) is desperate to pass his photography course, but Shane's (Danny Morgan) sudden commitment to cleanliness leads to him accidentally throwing away Danny's "Feminine Beauty" photos hours before the deadline...

In a last-ditch effort to salvage the situation, Shane suggests Danny snoop on their roommate Scarlet (Joanna Cassidy) during her ju-jitsu class and take some photos to replace his lost coursework. Secreting himself in a gym locker, Danny is alarmed when a class of girls arrive and strip off, before he's discovered and embarrassed in front of his lecturer Vanessa (Nina Young), an oversexed woman with an unprofessional interest in him.

As usual, a handful of minor plot-points (from Shane's discovery of wart on his bum, to the messy flat undergoing a feng shui clean-up) all influence the finale, but with less success than previous weeks. Danny manages to grab some furtive photos of Scarlet sitting on the grass outside his bedroom window to rebuild his coursework, but he forgets that his camera's memory card contains snaps of Shane's arse, and both sets of photos are projected onto a screen in front of his class.

What damaged this episode was a stream of implausible elements just to keep the story going. Why was there a solitary locker in the gym itself? Why did the girls not get changed in the changing rooms? Who would think taking photos from inside a locker, through a grill, of girls doing martial arts, would be in any way a good idea? Would Scarlet really refuse to help her friend re-do his photos, just because Shane's request was tactlessly done?

Really, too much about this episode that felt manipulated and more improbable than usual, and the story itself strayed into feeble Porkies territory -- which is not only an outdated source of inspiration, but just adds to a sense of frustration because Off The Hook isn't rude enough to compete with that '80s sex-comedy, or find a way to give it a noughties twist. Remember, this is a sitcom about ribald university life where the teenagers say "I'm stuffed!" instead of letting rip with an F-word, because it's on at 8pm.

Overall, Off The Hook just felt stale this week, and there were signs that the charm of the actors has been stretched to full breaking point and is about to snap. Danny's character isn't a credible "loser" given the amount of girls who are interested in him, he's just unlucky in a convoluted way; Shane's shtick as a disruptive but well-meaning friend is growing thin; Scarlet's quit a dull character, making it hard to see what Danny finds attractive about her; and expressionless Fred has become a genuine drain on my spirits, let alone the characters.

24 September 2009
BBC Three, 8pm / BBC HD, 10pm

written by: Dean Craig directed by: Vadim Jean starring: Jonathan Bailey (Danny), Danny Morgan (Shane), Joanna Cassidy (Scarlet), James Buckley (Fred), Johnny Canter (Andrew Clover) & Nina Young (Vanessa)