This two-part rom-com has been gathering dust in ITV's vault for so long now that Dev Patel (playing an embarrassed hotel waiter) has since gone on to star in an Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Mister Eleven is another fatuous example of comfort-TV for undemanding girls stuck at home on a Friday evening, only made palatable thanks to Michelle Ryan's heartfelt performance...
Saz (Ryan) is a maths whizz schoolteacher* with an obsession for numbers, averaged and formulas. Since her teenage years, she's been particularly fixated on the notion that the average woman married at the age of 28 and 2 months to their eleventh sexual partner. In the opening to this first episode, Saz married her mathematically perfect partner Dan (Sean Maguire), only to discover from one of her ex's, Alex (Adam Garcia), that they didn't sleep together. Alex (aka Mr. 9) is therefore expurgated from Shaz's shag-list and her new husband becomes Mr. 10, prompting a swift breakup and soul-searching...
It's a fun talking point, unwisely turned into the basis of a romantic drama that runs out of amusement pretty quickly. It doesn't help that it's crammed full of middle-of-the-road pop tunes (apparently to boost the emotion of scenes that fall flat), moments where Shaz and Dan argue in front of bemused strangers (whose bored faces echo that of the home audience), and follows ITV comedy-drama conventions to the letter – it's toothless, soft, not very funny, and not very romantic.
The only reason it's just about tolerable is down to Michelle Ryan, who was fresh back from her short-lived US fame as the Bionic Woman. She attacks the script with a lot of enthusiasm, beaming smiles, and a variety of trendy outfits. Alas, Ryan seems incapable of picking a decent project, so it's a shame her post-EastEnders career has mainly consisted of small roles in low-budget British comedies (Cashback, I Want Candy, Flick) and the occasional scrap thrown by writer fans (Steven Moffat in Jekyll, Russell T. Davies in Doctor Who.) Hopefully one day she'll find a big role in a show that actually works, because she's actually incredibly charming and an appealing role model for teenage girls – but lumbering her with a character who values statistics over emotions isn't the way to go.
11 December 2009 ITV1, 9pm
written by: Amanda Coe directed by: Paul Gay starring: Michelle Ryan (Saz Paley), Sean Maguire (Dan), Adam Garcia (Alex), Denis Lawson (Len), Lynda Bellingham (Shirley), Olivia Colman (Beth), Nicholas Burns (Eddie), Preeya Kalidas (Leanne), Jocelyn Osorio (Alicia), Nitzan Sharron (Omar), Sarah Niles (Audrey), Norman Bowman (Rob), Caroline Bragg (Young Beth), Chloe Cuthill (Saz as a teenager), Adrianna Bertola (Saz as a child), Tim Smith (Matt), Dev Patel (Hotel Waiter) & David Larder (Vicar)
* Although the only evidence for her being a teacher came via a few fantasy daydream sequences where she illustrated plot-points to a class of children.