Sitcom Not Going Out (2006-present) is currently 6 series long. There was a gap between series 3 and 4 because the show was cancelled in 2009 and then renewed in 2011. There are thus far 42 episodes. It’s written by and stars “always cheeky, never blue” comedian Lee Mack. The cast also includes Sally Bretton, Tim Vine, Katy Wix, Miranda Hart, and Megan Dodds.
Most of the episodes have been illegally uploaded to YouTube, but not all of them. If you have a region-free DVD player or know how to set your DVD player to region 0, consider the box set of season 1-5, about $20 on amazon.co.uk, plus shipping. You could get them from amazon.com, too but the price is more (lower shipping if locally obviously though). It’s region 2/PAL regardless.
39-year-old Lee, who is based on Lee Mack when he was younger, is a lay-about with a seemingly incurable illness: he cannot stop himself from making jokey one-liners, no matter how hard he tries, no matter how inappropriate the situation. The psychiatrist tells him it’s because he is unable to express his emotions, particularly that he’s fallen in love with his best friend Tim’s ex-girlfriend Kate, who also happens to be his landlady/flatmate ever since Tim moved out. After series 1, Kate moves away to America, and Tim’s sister Lucy becomes Lee’s new landlady/flatemate. Lee finds himself falling in love with Lucy, and everyone knows it but her. Their cleaner Miranda and Tim’s new girlfriend Daisy act as the angels on Lee’s shoulders, trying to help him devise plans to get in good with Lucy, but Lee’s haplessness always mucks it up and he winds up worse than where he started. Meanwhile, Tim goes out of his way to keep Lee from going near his sister.
Lee is my favorite character. Unrequited love is an age-old sitcom device, but Lee’s incurable wit makes him unique. I think this show must hold the record for most one-liners in half an hour. Lee is constantly ripped on for being from the North, and he makes frequent references to his awful upbringing by uncaring parents, one of whom returns frequently to cause trouble.
I really liked Kate, though she’s very much the same construct as Lucy. Unlike Lucy, she’s American, which means after she leaves the show, we sadly do not get anymore American jokes. Another reason I like Kate: She’s in book publishing, like me. She even sets Lee up with a date with one of her authors, which fails miserably when he finds out that she’s a depressed ex-prostitute that won’t stop talking about how she was abused as a child.
Lucy is smart and wry, and she probably fancies Lee, but never admits it to anyone. She tries to give him a chance to win her over, but something always goes wrong. The show is one big will-they-won’t-they between Lucy and Lee. She is a job-focused independent business woman. She is ten years younger than Tim, and they frequently make references to silly events from their childhood, usually related to Tim’s feminine side.
Tim, Lee’s best mate, is a polite, well-bred guy with a boring day job. As much as he tries to avoid getting wrapped up in Lee’s plots, he always finds himself in some kind of trouble or other, whether it’s breaking into a jewel smuggler’s office, buying washing powder off a drugs dealer, or burgling the flat of Lee’s upstairs neighbor. Although his character is still talked about in series 6, Tim Vine is no longer on the show.
Daisy is Tim’s dopey girlfriend that Tim met after a speed-dating session where Lee and Daisy failed to impress each other. There is a sort of unintended brilliance to her, as she’s always misinterpreting what is said and done, but the connections that she’s misunderstood are immensely clever. She confuses things like Scooby Doo with Snoop Doggy Dog.
Barbara is played by comedienne Miranda Hart. Barbara is constantly breaking things in Lucy’s apartment, which Lucy never minds and Lee has grown to accept. She’s often caught not working, which is a target for discussion-opening jokes. She starts off as the one who offers advice to Lee when he is alone about how to impress Lucy, almost as though, like the Sixth Sense, he’s the only one who can see her. After Barbara leaves the show, Daisy takes up this role.
Series 1: Kate takes a clown class, Lee dresses up as Tim’s relatives at a funeral, Lee and Kate have to pretend to be a couple in front of Kate’s Aussie friend, Lee tries to teach Kate to drive and she winds up crashing the car, and Lee moves into the flat downstairs, but winds up moving back with her after they realize how much they miss each other.
Series 2: Lee has to pretend to by gay in front of Lucy’s new boyfriend Guy, Tim and Lee give a baby a sonogram when they think it’s eaten their football, Lee goes speed-dating where he meets Daisy, Lee accuses Guy of being a diamond smuggler, Lee makes a bad first impression with Lucy’s parents at Christmas.
Series 3: Lucy tricks Lee into thinking he’s gotten her pregnant by wanking in her bath, Lee has to pretend to be blind and Tim has to pretend to be in a wheelchair when a reporter comes around to interview them, Lucy unsuccessfully tries to have a fling with a lesbian, Tim and Lee trash Lee’s neighbor’s apartment in order to get Lee’s toothbrush back, Lucy makes an inappropriate business speech in a see-through dress, Lucy gets engaged to a refugee to keep him from getting deported (he winds up marrying Barbara instead), and Lee’s father returns with some bogus story about how he’s dying so that he can score some cash from his son, who now has a job as an ice cream man.
Series 4: Tim and Lee accidentally lose a gangster’s cocaine, a girl shows up on Lee’s doorstep claiming to be his daughter, Lee winds up starring in a porn film taking place in Lucy’s flat, Lee is stuck with an old lady who’s wandered into his flat and won’t go away, and Lee goes into a coma and has weird dreams ala Life on Mars. (In fact, the beginning of this episode is shot-for-shot an homage to my favorite TV program, Life on Mars, and this episode is aptly named Life on Mars Bas.)
Series 5: Lee and Tim join a rock band, the car breaks down in the woods and gets surrounded by scary clown people, Lee eyes men’s testicles in the sauna because he’s afraid there’s something wrong with his own and is too embarrassed to go to the doctor, and Lucy tricks Lee (and herself) into thinking that they slept together, which results in Lucy’s family huddling around the television to watch their “sex tape.”
Series 6: Lucy kills two rabbits and sends Lee to return the (wrong) rabbit to its owner, they get stuck in a ski lift where Lee delivers a baby, Lee poses as Lucy’s husband, ex-husband, and father to different people at a business conference, Lee gets stalked by Daisy’s homicidal friend Rachel, Lee hijacks the play Lucy is starring in, Lee and Lucy get locked in a magic box and lose 13 children at a birthday party, Lee’s dad convinces them all to come stay on his new boat, which sinks in the sea while they are still on it.
What makes the show so funny is the dialogue. With that many jokes per minute, you expect some of them to be throw-away jokes, but they’re all very clever and well-thought-out. There are hundreds to choose from. Here are just a few good ones.
Lee: Right. That’s it. It’s time for Doctor Who to sort out the Pervy Squid. Oddjob? You and Captain Pedantic might want to stand back because I’m evicting Batman’s rentboy.
Lee: I don’t regret anything, except that I never learned French. Je ne regrette croissant. (I might be paraphrasing that.)
Lee: Just because Thora Hird can’t climb stairs doesn’t mean she’s a Dalek.
Doctor: Do you have any history of heart disease?
Lee: Yes. Heart disease was discovered in 1784 by…