Now that Stath Lets Flats series 1 has come to an end, Channel 4 is filling its Wednesday night slot with another brand new comedy.
Hang Ups stars Stephen Mangan as a stressed therapist, delivering online therapy sessions to a host of eccentric clients while also trying to deal with his own problems… It’s loosely based on the American show Web Therapy, which ran from 2011 to 2015 and starred Lisa Kudrow as a self-centred therapist offering her services via Skype.
Episode 1 opens with Richard (Mangan) frantically trying to set up his laptop to begin his first day as an ‘online therapist’. As he rushes around the house, we are briskly introduced to his wife Karen (Katherine Parkinson) and their teenage children, as well as Richard’s useless friend Pete (Karl Theobald) and Karen’s friendly work colleague Abs (John MacMillan). We see all of this action through Richard’s laptop and other electronic devices such as mobile phones, which adds up to a rather disorientating atmosphere.
Thankfully the pace doesn’t remain this frenzied. Once things have settled down and Richard has been left in relative peace to work, he starts taking calls with clients, who in this episode include a posh lady left scarred by a humiliating experience at school (Sarah Hadland) and a young woman whose primary goal in life is increasing her Instagram following (Lolly Adefope). We also get some quicker glimpses of sessions with clients played by David Bradley, Monica Dolan and more.
Richard may earn a living from advising other people on their problems, but he clearly has plenty of his own. It soon emerges, during a call with his clinical supervisor (Alice Lowe), that he has started this new venture due to his previous therapy practice failing, and we later find out he is being pursued by a loan shark (Steve Oram) to whom he owes a great deal of money. In amongst client sessions, he also finds a spare moment to get in touch with his own therapist (Richard E. Grant) and receives an unexpected call from his intimidating father (Charles Dance). Factor into all of this a son who’s annoyed about a missed school event plus a wife who wants some quality time before going away on a business trip, and Richard’s first day as an online therapist is chaos.
In the filming of Hang Ups, the calls that occur between Richard and his clients, family members and others were mostly unscripted – with actors being given some background information about their character and then improvising their dialogue on a real-time call with Mangan. Although the improvisation was scary for some (David Tennant, who appears in a later episode, reportedly said he had never felt so nervous before a shoot), the ability to film an appearance in just a few hours made it possible to attract busy, high-profile guest stars.
With a strong core cast, an impressive roster of guest stars and an interesting style unlike anything else on British television, Hang Ups is an enjoyable watch. In addition to the much-anticipated guest appearance from David Tennant, the next episode is set to introduce Celia Imrie as Richard’s mum, plus Jessica Hynes and Conleth Hill as his siblings, so it’s sure to be worth watching.
Hang Ups begins tonight at 10pm on Channel 4.