01 October 2020 00:47
Are you hankering after a retro relationship drama? Not the filth of Fleabag, or the frankness of Normal People, but something that harks back to the more innocent Noughties: to Bridget Jones's big knickers, Rachel and Ross definitely being on a break, and a time when you couldn't imagine anything ruder on TV than Sex and the City's Samantha discussing a Brazilian wax. Love Life (BBC One) is a sweet little series imported from the US streaming service HBO Max. It stars Anna Kendrick as Darby Carter, a rom-com name if ever there was one. She is a young woman navigating adult life in New York and each half-hour episode deals with a different relationship, beginning with Darby in her early 20s and following her through to her 30s. Kendrick, who had her breakout role opposite George Clooney in Up in the Air, is a sparky presence with enough likeability to hold this together.
But the show adds up to less than the sum of its parts. British actress Lesley Manville has been drafted in as the omniscient narrator, dispensing wisdom in soothing tones and informing us at the outset that the average person has seven relationships before they meet the love of their life. Manville has some nice lines, including the observation that Darby yearns to reach the level of dating "where you don't change your outfit because you're seeing the person, you just wear what you're wearing because you are who you are". You expect this voice-over to take us to interesting places, yet it doesn't. The same happens with the storylines.
In episode one, Darby meets Augie (Jin Ha) on a night out. They start seeing each other, have a lovely time, he gets a job in Washington, DC, then they split up fairly amicably. There is no twist. The next episode is marginally more interesting, because Darby starts dating her former boss and Kendrick gets to play to her comic strengths in a funeral scene. The show is stuffed with references to romantic comedies of the past, from Love Actually all the way back to Jane Austen. Love Life displays this self-knowledge then doesn't quite know what to do with it. A fun watch, but it feels like a wasted opportunity. Love Life BBC One ★★★☆☆ Grayson Perry's Big American Road Trip Channel 4 ★★★★☆ Oh, dear lord no. Wisecracking twentysomethings living in a nice New York apartment that seems way too expensive for them? The trials of our heroine's sex life through an ironic, self-deprecating(ish) filter? Perfect hair and teeth? Has HBO found a way to churn out a terrible 2020 hybrid of Friends and Sex and the City? Somebody send help. During the first episode of Love Life I really thought it had, not that any "heroine" could ever be more drippy and annoying than SATC's Carrie Bradshaw and her whiny relationship columns. For the first 15 minutes I was part bored, part irritated, even though Anna Kendrick actually does a fine