Eye For Film >> Movies >> Book Group - Series 2 (2004) Film Review
To borrow the conceit of this Channel 4 series and compare it to a classic work of literature, here's the Catch-22: to fully get all its references and parallels to famous books, you have to be reasonable well-read. But if you are, you might find the show's own writing something of an ordeal.
It's ultimately an frustrating show to watch. The Book Group has a brilliant premise - the lives of the varied members of a Glasgow club which meets to discuss books, ironically juxtaposed with the very novels they choose to read that month. With all the introductions out of the way, this second series complicates things still further, mixing up the romantic entanglements between the characters, who develop and change over the six episodes.
The series takes an interesting tone, somewhere between out-and-out comedy and a kind of bittersweet melancholy, which slightly echoes The Office. It's also refreshing to see a Scottish TV show with such a mix of nationalities, sexualities - without being overly self-conscious about it - and an ambitious range of locations.
And yet ... and yet. The Book Group still isn't very good. Some of the dialogue falls horribly flat; some of the acting is achingly broad and phoney. Most of this is down to direction, I think, which emphasises the obvious over the subtle.
While Rory McCann as disabled swim champ-turned-romantic novelist Kenny is simply out of his depth, Michelle Gomez acts her butt off to give an all-cylinders performance as blinkered housewife-turned-farming correspondent Janice - but it's just too cartoonish a character to work.
It's frustrating, because every so often you get a genuinely funny or clever scene (American Jean's "interview" with a prostitute which, it becomes clear, is more of a job interview than a reporter's), or a fine performance (the hugely underrated Henry Ian Cusick is excellent in a small role as a despairing, disillusioned publisher).
There are certainly a lot of good things about the series and definitely some laughs. There are a lot worse sitcoms, for sure. But there are too many painfully unfunny moments and overall the show feels like a great missed opportunity.Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2005