BBC Three, 10.30pm, Wednesday 11th November
Written by: Josh Widdicombe and Tom Craine
Josh Widdicombe has gone and done a Jack Whitehall; working his way up from stand-up comedian and UK panel-show regular to (co-)writer and star of his own sitcom. Like Bad Education before it, Josh also sees the youthful leading man ostensibly playing himself. And it’s broadcast on BBC Three – a station surely no longer in danger of going online-only, given how many new shows they continue to green-light?!
“Smoking and Kissing” was an interesting opener, insofar as it felt very much like a comfortable middle-of-the-run show rather than a concept-solidifying debut. Not that there is much to “get” from the situation – three single 20-somethings share a flat which is regularly visited by their sad-sack landlord – but it wasn’t until I did a web-search that I discovered that Josh received a 15minute pilot episode last year as part of BBC Comedy Feeds.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen this introductory short either repeated or expanded into a “proper” first episode, if only to re-instate the premise that Josh is stuck living with childhood best friend Kate (the cute Beattie Edmondson) and fact-loving Welshman Owen (Crims’ Elis James) because he was kicked out by his fiancée – a topic which was never raised in this episode.
Set-up quibble aside, the premiere’s plot – that Josh is nervous of attending a pool party because he never learnt to swim, while Kate is bewildered to discover she has a reputation as a bad kisser – was simple but not bad; the two disparate narrative stands paralleling nicely rather than intertwining as sitcom storylines often do.
Things occasionally felt a mite contrived (a chlorine allergy is a perfectly sensible medical reason for not learning to swim, rather than embarrassing due to ineptitude), but not to the determent of the machine-gun-style humour.
Much like Josh’s unrefined, natural approach to acting, the banter-driven nature of the comedy does grow on you as the episode progresses; Welshman Owen’s random factoids and Kate’s university nicknames being two prime examples of repetition and the building of jokes to laugh-out-loud crescendos.
Jack Dee’s turn as irritating landlord Geoff wasn’t really given enough time to convince me his inclusion is essential to the show’s dynamic, his kitchen-based swimming lesson feeling a little crowbarred in, but it also didn’t put me off from tuning in again next week to see how these hapless characters continue to amble through their days.