Sunday, 11 September 2011


Sunday, 11 September 2011
written by Abigail Wilson; directed by Sam Delaney
starring Anna Crilly, Katherine Parkinson, Katy Wix & Sarah Solemani

In Channel 4's Comedy Showcase season there are generally to kinds of shows: comedies that are clearly intended to introduce a full series next year (like last week's Chickens), and one-off ideas that just don't have the legs to be anything other than a half-hour experiment. Coma Girl fits into the latter category; a comedy-drama about three lifelong friends in their thirties twenties who gather at hospital to visit the comatose fourth member of their clique. It doesn't sound like fertile territory for big laughs, and indeed it isn't. It's hard to really see Coma Girl as anything other than one-act stage play that's been filmed, giving four good actresses the chance to play together.

The titular patient is Lucy (Lead Balloon's Anna Crilly), who spends the entirety of this episode lying in bed, although we get to experience her subconscious as a series of genuinely beautiful and well-produced internal hallucinations: an old-fashioned birthday party where Lucy sits alone at a long table, dressed in a red dress with white polka dots; or a beautiful, empty seaside pier where seagulls hang in the sky and Lucy can't get an outside line from a red phone box. These moments were the highlights of the show for me, as they were so well done, and gave the show flavour and some slick visuals.

However, the rest of the show just didn't appeal in the slightest. Lucy's three visitors are failing TV presenter Siobhan (Him & Her's Sarah Solemani), mother-of-three Sarah (Katy Wix), and bohemian Pip (The IT Crowd's Katherine Parkinson)—all united by a shared childhood, but largely divided in adulthood because their lives are so different. That's a decent idea for a two-part ITV drama, but doesn't really work as a Channel 4 sitcom. I just have no idea where the show could go if more episodes were commissioned, especially as this episode ends with a moment you assume means Coma Girl's completed its arc. The characters were quite nicely drawn and brilliantly acted, but they weren't particularly funny. In fact, Coma Girl as a whole didn't really have many laughs—beyond, perhaps, the moment when Sarah's baby vomited milk onto the back of an oblivious Pip, or when a South African Nigerian doctor arrived and kept undercutting his own kindly nature.

Written by Abigail Wilson (Jam & Jerusalem), it's just very hard to see why Coma Girl's part of this Comedy Showcase series. British sitcoms often revolve around limited concepts and ideas, but basing a comedy around the discussions of three women visiting a friend in hospital is perhaps a step too far. What would happen in episode 2, let alone episode 6 and beyond? Then again, maybe this pilot was never intended to be commissioned and Wilson simply wanted to scratch an itch she's had for awhile. If so, fine, but Coma Girl could still have used a great deal more laughs and narrative surprises, as only the appealing performances of Crilly, Wix, Parkinson and Solemani are worthy of your time.

9 September 2011 / Channel 4