Warren - Martin Clunes stars as an 'irredeemably unpleasant' driving instructor in limp new BBC sitcom

Martin Clunes starred in the not-very-good Warren this weekMartin Clunes starred in the not-very-good Warren this week
Martin Clunes starred in the not-very-good Warren this week
It seems that ITV has given up on comedy – their remaining sitcoms, Birds of a Feather and Bad Move, were recently cancelled, apparently not to be replaced.

So, is sitcom dead? Judging by Warren (BBC1, Mondays, 9pm), it should be.

Martin Clunes stars as Warren, a driving instructor who could only be suffering from depression, given his constant raging at the world.

This sitcom didn’t really have much situation at all.

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It was supposedly set in Preston, but as it was filmed in Cardiff, you got no real sense of location, beyond a faked up sign for the 'Preston Gate' retail park and some generic northern accents.

There were a couple of ‘jokes’ about moving up north and people hating southerners –“that’s racist”, fumed Warren – but there was otherwise no real reason for it to be set in Lancashire.

And nothing was made of Warren being a driving instructor, apart from him being able to drive around a bit.

As for the com part. Well, that was totally non-existent. Much of what passed for comedy was Warren calling his partner’s children ‘a prat’.

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There was a slightly odd subplot about fly-tipping, which went nowhere, and an old sitcom favourite, keeping up with a competitive neighbour.

But the biggest problem wasn’t the lack of a clear situation, it was that Warren was so irredeemably unpleasant.

Clunes was in a memorable hit as Gary in Men Behaving Badly, and you can sort of see this is where that character might have ended up – a sad, embittered, humourless, uptight, foul-mouthed, fly-tipping ninny, who is no longer young, footloose and fancy-free, and regrets it.

But whereas Gary was almost pathetically devoted to girlfriend Dorothy, Warren has no redeeming qualities. And that goes for the show too.

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He’s back, in This Time With Alan Partridge (Mondays, BBC1, 9.30pm) and his mouth is still stuffed with foot. A note-perfect pastiche of the early evening magazine show, Alan is the antidote to Warren.

There was a fantastic documentary on this week, Three Identical Strangers (Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm), which told an incredible story in a matter-of-fact, journalistic way. Worth seeking out.

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