Honestly? Almost painful. And not because I felt really sorry for the characters. Not even entirely because it was improvised. (Fun fact: according to IMDb, the “first major UK TV series to be created through improvisation.”)
I should be objective. It did get better in the last three episodes (though not so much so that I was sad to see it end), and I admit I may have not “got it” because I haven’t experienced any of their situations.
The most obvious connections between the episodes are the theme song, the theme and it being set in Margate. Stories within episodes are never mentioned again, even when it would make sense, or when an actor reappears.
Note: Don’t get tricked into watching it for David Tennant or Billie Piper – they’re both in one episode, and I don’t mean both in both. He’s in the first and she’s in the third.
As the title states, each episode and situation is a different way that the concept of “true love” is perceived, and how we can be made to wonder if the person we have found is really the person we should be with.
I will, as always, try to avoid spoilers, but it’ll be difficult to do completely.
Episode one: Nick (David Tennant)
This is the story of a happily married man whose ex (Vicky McClure) suddenly comes back into his life: is she his true love? Or has he found it in his wife?
There’s definitely something still between them, as we see as they spend time together. We know it’s a problematic history by the wife’s (Joanne Froggatt) reaction to accidentally bumping into her and his not telling her about it.
To condense the story into half an hour, though, means not explaining that history, and instead we see a man having an affair with his ex and faced with the choice of whether or not to run away with her.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Tennant in the bad guy role, how about here as the husband cheating on his wife?
Episode two: Paul (Ashley Walters)
This is the story of a married man and new father who sees a woman (Jaime Winstone) and falls in love at first sight. But is it true?
Paul and his wife [Lacey Turner, the ex’s sister in the previous episode] have grown apart – or at least she has, as he tries to get her to talk to him, acknowledge him, be intimate with him. So he turns to the new woman instead, who he quickly falls in love with and talks about running away together.
He decides to go, but can’t without confessing to his wife, who, understandably, throws him out. What isn’t understandable is her bizarre change of heart and begging him to stay. True love or “I don’t want to be alone raising this baby?”
Episode three: Holly (Billie Piper)
This was the episode where it seemed to finally improve a bit. It’s also about a lesbians and, like the other episodes, includes bedroom scenes – though nothing sexual – so if that bothers you…
This is the story of a teacher who falls in love with a student [whose friend was Nick’s daughter in the first episode], and vice versa. A teacher whose boyfriend is a married man (Charlie Creed-Miles), and whose mother (Jenny Agutter) is desperate for her to find a real mate.
What neither mother nor daughter particularly had in mind was for it to be one of her students, or a girl (Kaya Scodelario); this is also a story of them both realizing they’re lesbians.
With neither of them married or attached, all that’s necessary in the romance department is Holly leaving her “boyfriend.”
Their secret is blown in the school – and teenage boys being teenage boys, this means Holly being unable to continue being their teacher. (Not that she was ever all that convincing as one in the first place.) Holly walks out, and the girl follows.
Episode four: Sandra (Jane Horrocks)
“Call me Ishmael.” (Alexander Siddig) Okay fine, he doesn’t really say that, but it is his name.
This is the story of the parents who have just sent their last daughter off to university, and are suffering from an empty nest and a lack of intimacy, with the husband being more attached to his phone than his relationship. [This is also the man Holly was with in the last episode, not that there’s any mention of an affair.]
This is an episode where you can feel sorry for Sandra, and later for the husband when, realizing he’s losing her, starts fighting for her – a case of “too little, too late.”
Also a good soundtrack to this one, I thought.
Episode five: Adrian (David Morrissey)
This episode brings up the digital age, with a lonely father [to Scodelario] and widower/divorcee meeting his woman (Gemma Chan) online. Unfortunately, he meets her at the same time as his daughter’s friend [still Jo Woodcock, Tennant’s daughter] decides she has an inappropriate crush on him.
This and episode three were the only ones without the character having an affair. Instead he refuses the teenager’s advances and desperately tries to get his girlfriend to believe that the girl is just obsessed.
Aside from bringing the actress back, I have no idea why he had a daughter. She disappeared for most of the episode (not with her friend… off with Holly?) and all she really did was say she disapproved.
As for the friend, she apparently had a change of heart between episodes. In episode three, she’s against the idea of her friend being with a teacher, but now it’s okay for her to be with her friend’s father? Even if you justify it as “the teacher was a girl with a girl and this is a guy” I don’t see how that adds up.
On the whole, it was watchable and, with each episode only half an hour, it doesn’t take long – although they might have benefited from being longer.
I still think the interconnectedness could have been done better, with more of a link between the episodes – episode three’s affair could easily have been the cause of episode four’s problems, as the most obvious.
You can tell it’s improvised, but I don’t mean that in a way to say that it distracts from the story.
I won’t be watching a second season if they intend to make one, but I also won’t say not to watch it if it interests you. I can admit that my problems with it might have partly been not understanding the characters’ situations – and that the people I’ve seen agree with me have also been my age.
All episodes are still available on iPlayer – episode 1 expires just before 11pm tomorrow.