Pints of wine, kids selling bootleg DVDs, York being classed as ‘down South’… Hebburn may at first seem like a mad pantomime of Geordie grotesques in a broken Brown Ale bottle landscape, but to those born and bred in the North-East (such as this reviewer), it’s at times delightfully close to the bone. Most importantly though, it’s very funny indeed.
Comedian Chris Ramsey is working class boy Jack Pearson, who returns home to his family in Hebburn with his Jewish middle class wife Sarah. Class differences have been a staple of comedy ever since laughter was invented, but Hebburn gets away with it simply because its characters are so relatable, its situations so uncomfortably sticky with familiarity. In the interactions of the Pearsons there’s the most believable portrait of family dynamics since The Royle Family, and the kind of microscope observational comedy that audiences experienced with Phoenix Nights.
Though it occasionally feels like an in-joke to those raised into the intoxicating gravity of Tyneside, you can tell that Hebburn is clearly a comedy made with love and a ruthless eye for detail. That’s due to writers Jason Cook (also playing the deadbeat Ramsey) and Graham Duff who have created a ‘jab your ribs’ script full of warmth and humour. If it were a human being, Hebburn would be the fat bloke in the pub who’d make fun of your shirt, call you a tosser, then buy you a couple of pints and tell you dirty jokes all night.
A talented and likeable cast keep the Geordie banter flowing and continually pull focus from main character Jack. Jim Moir is understated but dryly comic in a way that proper dads are, while North-East native Gina McKee gets to flex her accent as embarrassing mum Pauline, because embarrassing mums are the heartbeat of every family sitcom.
However, Pat Dunn rolls away with the best lines as Grandma Dot, continuing the grand comedy tradition of loveable old people saying outrageous things. Put all together in the lounge – only used for special occasions, like The X Factor final – the cast work so well together that they feel like a real family, and you feel like the houseguest, cringing and laughing in between being offered counterfeit bagels.
We’ve seen the first few episodes of Hebburn and are pleased to say the quality of humour is constant throughout. Without a doubt it’s one of the finest new British sitcoms of 2012, and if there isn’t news of a second series before its six episode run ends, we’ll be surprised.
Much like the North-East, it’s a bit rough round the edges, but full of the heart and local laughter that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Aired at 10pm on Thursday 18th October 2012 on BBC Two.
What did you think of Hebburn? Let us know below…