I'm not sure if this is technically still part of the Comedy Showcase season last year, which just stopped halfway through its six-episode run. The Angelos Epithemiou Show was resold as a comedy special for Christmas, there's still no sign of The Function Room, but now we have Milton Jones's House Of Rooms. The concept of which feels immediately entertaining and with clear potential, as we're introduced to mummy's boy Milton (Milton Jones), who still live with his mother (Susie Blake) in her guesthouse. One of their tenants is the beautiful but shy Alice (Cordelia Bugeja), whom Milton fancies but is himself too bashful to ask out, and Tony (Alexander Kirk) the middle-aged office worker coping with a painful marital split. Naturally, there's ample opportunity for guests/characters to come and go, revolving around this central quartet of regulars.
Given its simple but enticing premise, slightly reminding me of classic '70s sitcom Rising Damp, and Jones's own reputation as one of the UK's best "one-liner" deadpan comedians, I was eagerly anticipating House Of Rooms. I was rewarded with a sharp and snappy half-hour of nonsense, silliness, a half-dozen laugh-out-loud moments, and a likable way to merge Jones's style of comedy to something quite kinetic and cleverly shot by Ben Palmer (who's echoing the work of Spaced's Edgar Wright in some ways).
What this pilot set out to achieve, it accomplished. The relationships were instantly understood, the jokes flowed quickly, there were some brilliant sight gags, verbal funnies torn straight from Jones's joke book, and some good comic performances. I've never seen Jones as an actor until now, and although this character wasn't a million miles from his on-stage persona of "spaced-out man-child", it was still different enough to have you seeing him in a different light.
There was also great support from Susie Blake (Coronation Street) as his mother, who could have easily been written as an "older battleaxe" type, but they've wisely decided to use the fact Blake's relatively young and attractive. It somehow gave the show a lift, perhaps because it adds a sexual angle to her character. Cordelia Bugeja didn't actually have much to do, beyond make goo goo eyes and be an object of affection, but this could also have been a character who was the opposite of Milton and perhaps found him creepy and strange. But instead, it feels like she's his soul mate and they're well-suited together. Maybe this will cause problems if the show goes to series, because it could become tiring seeing them both get tongue-tied around each other. It made for a fun joke here, but will we still be laughing five episodes later, or screaming for them both to just say what's on their minds?
Let's hope we get the chance to find out. More than any other Comedy Showcase sitcom this year, I'd most like to see House Of Rooms become a full-blown series. Chickens and The Fun Police had merit, particularly the former, but it just feels like British comedy is missing something like House Of Rooms. And we're actually really good at making shows like this: the irreverent, madcap, surreal, twisted, yet likable sitcom.
- Do you recognise Cordelia Bugeja but can't place her? You've probably seen her in adverts, particularly the Yakult campaign. She's also appeared on The IT Crowd and, more recently, two episodes of Sky's Mount Pleasant.