Home from Home is BBC Two’s second offering in its ongoing season of sitcom pilots.
Johnny Vegas and Joanna Page buy a rundown holiday home in the Lake District and have a difficult first day with their well-off neighbours Adam James and Emilia Fox. A promising set-up with the possibility of some good class-based humour but one that the actual episode sadly fails to live up to.
One of the biggest problems is that, even though Home from Home has a rarely seen setting, everything else is just too well worn.
The dynamic between neighbours Penny (Fox) and Robert (James) is what we see between pretty much every middle class sitcom couple where the easygoing husband is henpecked by his shrewish wife who looks down on the working classes.
While Neil’s (Vegas) jealousy of Robert being much more capable and charming than him and the hints of Fiona (Page) falling for him is a plot point used so much that there might as well be stock dialogue for it on screenwriting software. But to give Home from Home its due, it does lay some more subtle groundwork for a gender flipped version of this as Neil and Penny start to bond after getting drunk. Something that would be very welcome in a full series.
Elsewhere, when the child characters aren’t being given awkward dialogue they’re standing stock-still in the background. It’s almost twenty minutes before Robert and Penny’s daughter Petra (Phoebe Campbell) gets any notable dialogue, which is over in seconds, and the only real role that Neil and Fiona’s two sons Garth and Little Neil (Oscar Kennedy and Christy Harvey) play in the episode is complaining and waiting for the TV aerial to get fixed.
The episode does do a fairly good job of setting the stage for a potential full series but it ends up slowing things down rather than complementing the rest of the script.
Johnny Vegas is basically carrying the episode as the de facto main character but the issue there is that he’s the only one with any real comedy moments. Joanna Page and Adam James are the straight (wo)men while Emilia Fox’s sardonic barbs just don’t work that well. Thankfully, Vegas positively shines as Neil and gets to stretch his acting muscles as a character more likeable and down to earth than previous roles like Moz (Ideal) and Geoff Maltby (Benidorm). Page also impresses but suffers from a lack of good material.
A surprising positive for a sitcom (and one that gives Home from Home a bit more flair) is that the cinematography and location work stand out much more than the writing.
Home from Home has its moments (mostly when using some good old-fashioned cringe comedy) but, a lot of the time, it feels dry and sluggish. In the end, its main problem is that it lacks energy and inventiveness. Unfortunately, this is one pilot we don’t expect to see going to a full series.
Aired at 10pm on Tuesday 30 August 2016 on BBC Two.