SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this review unless you have seen Mr Sloane – Episode One
It’s nothing new for dramas about a mild-mannered man undergoing a mid-life crisis to start with one bad day to ignite a chain of events that will irreversibly change his life. But Jeremy Sloane (Nick Frost), the eponymous hero of the 60s-set series Mr Sloane, which began on Sky Atlantic last night, has been having a bad decade.
In 1969 Sloane at his lowest ebb: his wife has left him, running off to “find herself” in America, he’s been fired from his job of ten years and his best friend has just been awarded the promotion he’s always dreamed of. Sloane even fails to get his own suicide right, the ceiling collapsing under his own weight as he tries to hang himself. What’s more, he’s stuck living in Watford, a place where the 60s never swung, especially for Sloane who’d rather it was still 1961.
The plot frequently flashes back to the start of the decade when Sloane first fell in love with his soon-to-be-wife Janet (Olivia Coleman, obviously brilliant) and was starting to climb the career ladder at work, and he and his friends were filled with hope for the future. “The 60s are gonna be our decade, my son. I can feel,” as his best friend Ross (Peter Serafinowicz) optimistically says.
The flashback device is used well to keep up the pace and provide an escape from the relative melancholy of Sloane’s later life, as well as informing the depths of his depression by giving background into how Sloane’s life went so wrong.
With his life falling apart, Sloane retreats down the pub hoping to find solace with his childhood friends, including the aforementioned glib and greasy Ross, but without success.
Instead he finds it in the form of Robin (Ophelia Lovibond), a tie-dye whirlwind of bonhomie from San Francisco who bursts into Sloane’s beige world via a chance encounter at a DIY store and offers him the chance to grab one last piece of the swinging 60s before it’s too late.
Nick Frost nails it as the kind but quietly frustrated Jeremy Sloane, always making him loveable even when he’s causing his own problems, such as arriving on his first day as a supply teacher nursing a massive beer and chocolate cake hangover.
The show is also perfectly shaped, lacing a bittersweet story with a dark wit (Slone confessing his failed suicide to a new pupil) and nostalgic romance to build a delicate portrait of a man collapsing under the weight of his own expectations.
An hour-long runtime may be stretching the plot too far, however, with comedy almost always better when delivered at pace. It’s not until the final quarter that Sloane finally meets Robin and begins to affect a change in his life, which is far more enjoyable and engaging, after too much time has been given over to setting up Sloane’s dismal life and backstory.
That is but a minor quibble in what is an otherwise brilliant comedy-drama. Mr Sloane offers a nuanced story of heartache, humour and broken expectations; perfectly paced and wonderfully performed, and really rather lovely.
Click here to watch a clip from Mr Sloane