Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was something to watch at nine ‘o’ clock at night for three days running. A thing unheard of of late! Mondays saw The Children, Wednesdays Lost in Austen, and sandwiched between them on Tuesdays was Mutual Friends.
The latter follows a group of “friends” dealing with the death of one of their own, and the revelations that came with it. Lawyer Martin Grantham (Marc Warren), learns that his wife Jen has had an affair with the now deceased Carl, putting a strain between them and poor widower Leigh.
Meanwhile, Martin’s licentious friend Patrick Turner is sacked from his job as a photographer with a modelling business, and turns to Martin for legal help. Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is also dating Patrick’s ex-boss. Oh dear.
Leigh finds herself the object of infatuation from married family friend Dev, and also finds herself penniless from Carl’s squandering of money.
Martin faces trouble at work as he is not bringing in business, business that is not pro bono. He is also up against a younger, hot-shot lawyer keen to knock Martin from his pedestal.
Preview reviews gave the impression that all the characters began playing tricks on each other in an almost cartoonish way, yet this is not the case. There are some subtle and not so subtle expressions of anger, disgust and revenge; but when it really matters, the vast majority are there for each other and doing the right thing, most of the time.
While Mutual Friends is nothing new, and many of the directions taken in the story can be seen coming a mile off, it is still enough to keep a viewer watching. The characters are not the unpleasant, conniving people they were made out to be, although they are undoubtedly flawed; but who wants to watch a bunch of people behaving like saints?
Billed as a comedy, the humour occasionally seems flat, coarse, or over-reliant on swearing, but there are a few laugh out loud moments, usually with Martin as the butt of the joke. His attempts at teaching primary school children, and thinking that someone is about to commit harry-carry are just two of them. Keeley Hawes as Jen also had an amusing yet predictable line about a tiara that demanded to be said. Thankfully it was, and said well.
Alexander Armstrong was the stand-out in a cast of familiar faces as the immoral, selfish, single-minded Patrick; and his chemistry with Marc Warren as their characters go through a love-hate, hate-love relationship can surely be counted among the recent television series double-act successes.
Although not as slick or witty as some of the other BBC comedies or dramas, it nonetheless made for a diverting few hours of easy to watch, unchallenging, not to be taken seriously entertainment.