It has been two years since brilliantly imaginative sitcom Cuckoo was last on our screens and in that time Dale ‘Cuckoo’ Ashbrick – the hippy who divided his other half’s family with spiritual teachings and a jacket potato revolution – has sadly gone the way of the dodo, Adam Samberg’s commitment to Fox’s hit comedy Brooklyn Nine Nine ruling out a return.
With Tamla Kari also departing as Cuckoo’s besotted wife Rachel, few would have blamed the creators for ending the show. Instead they have chosen to persevere, replacing Samberg with Taylor Lautner (yes, the walking abs from the Twilight saga) and returning last night as part of a comedy double bill on BBC Three.
Picking up two years after Samberg’s Cuckoo went missing in the Himalayas and was presumed dead, Ken (Greg Davies) is finally looking forward to getting some peace and quiet with his son Dylan (Tyger Drew-Honey) about to head off to university and Rachel paired off in an unhappy relationship with Ben (Matt Lacey), a colleague of her father whose idea of romance amounts to bulging folders and data collection (“Darling, the maths works out really well.” Swoon.).
Obviously, it’s all ruined less than five minutes later when a mysterious stranger (Lautner) winds up on the Thompsons’ sofa claiming to be Cuckoo’s love child, Cuckoo Jr.
Most of season one’s best moments sprung from the petty rivalry between Cuckoo and his father-in-law and it is blatantly clear that Samberg’s departure has left Davies to carry the comedic load alone (he is by far the funniest performer here) with no sign as yet of Lautner striking up a similar dynamic to ease the burden.
With a couple of years of life to catch up on and the need to dedicate an entire episode to Cuckoo Jr.’s ridiculous backstory, which in no way makes the idea of a 13-year-old boy having a baby with a woman 25 years his senior less icky, there is much less of the show’s trademark offbeat humour to enjoy.
This transitional style also means that Lautner isn’t given enough meaningful screen time to establish his own take on the role and he is forced to spend much of the episode bounding down a motorway looking like George of the Jungle only with 90% more beard.
The first episode back was always going to be tricky with the writers essentially having to reboot the series due to the departures, but there are some promising moments – Lautner in particular impresses as Samberg’s disarmingly naïve offspring.
If future episodes are used to head-off in a fresh direction and Lautner is given more time to develop his own stamp on the Cuckoo character, it may yet prove that there is life in this wacky bird yet.
The second part of BBC Three’s comedy double introduced us to a new sitcom from the makers of The Inbetweeners. Siblings, starring Fresh Meat’s Charlotte Ritchie and Etonian stand-up Tom Stourton, follows Hannah and Dan, the world’s worst brother and sister, as they wade through the ups and downs of their twenties.
In last night’s episode, a piteously needy Dan desperately approaches random strangers in an unsuccessful effort to make a new friend. Meanwhile, the usually work shy Hannah is forced to find a way into her new employer’s good books after her lenient, alcoholic boss is sent to rehab.
From the very start Siblings tries to be outrageous by presenting us with two wholly unlikeable leads with Hannah resorting to slagging off a hard working colleague and ultimately blackmailing her boss to save her job, yet the writers forget to give them any redeeming qualities, their actions destroying lives without recrimination, making it impossible to warm to these characters.
Add in a hoary mix of clichés and predictable plotting – from the moment Dan pretends to need a wheel chair we know exactly where this is going – as well as an incessantly bouncy soundtrack that makes it feel like you’re watching an episode of the Chuckle Brothers on MDMA, and there really is very little to suggest that this is a worthy companion to the still brilliant Cuckoo.
Click here to watch Siblings on BBC iPlayer