After a bit of blip with the slightly underwhelming Home From Home, BBC Two’s run of sitcom pilots hits back with a vengeance in the form of Our Ex-Wife.
A sitcom starring Robert Webb and Victoria Hamilton as divorced parents of two Jack and Hillary, who have built a successful divorce on hate and seeing each other as little as possible.
There’s a definite US influence here with the pilot being written by Julie Thacker Scully (whose credits include three episodes of The Simpsons) and co-starring Two And A Half Men’s Melanie Lynskey, but it feels more HBO than network television.
There’s something refreshing about Our Ex-Wife being so completely uncompromising in its content considering the usual output of softer domestic comedies where mild drunken stupidity is about as outrageous as it gets.
Here, the idea of being inoffensive is thrown out of the window immediately with swearing and violence right from the start. Something that fits Our Ex-Wife perfectly since it’s a story built on aggression and ill-feeling.
But where Our Ex-Wife really stands out is its production. It feels very high-end and cinematic, and from a technical standpoint it just oozes quality. It also gets more inventive than a lot of sitcoms, using cutaways and fantasy sequences to great effect, while not relying on them too much.
Robert Webb is a solid lead and nice mix of both the straight man and the fool but the real star power is with Victoria Hamilton and Peter Egan; who steal the show as the almost completely unstable Hillary, and Jack’s blunt father George.
Meanwhile, Melanie Lynskey is absolutely charming as Jack’s fiancée Sara; a warm-hearted American vet sucked into the disaster area of Jack and Hillary’s relationship.
Of the three BBC Two sitcom pilots shown so far, Our Ex-Wife is our clear favourite, thanks in no small part to it being so inventive and having a lot of impact, both in its writing and its production. If only one pilot from Sitcom Season gets given a full series, this should be the frontrunner.
Aired at 10pm on Thursday 1 September 2016 on BBC Two.