Linda Green: The Complete First Series


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

When Linda Green debuted in 2001, it looked like television by numbers - a 30-minute drama for thirtysomething single girls, starring a popular TV face. So welcome Liza Tarbuck, a firm favourite from Eighties comedy Watching and presenting jobs on She's Gotta Have It and The Big Breakfast, as Linda.

She's sexy, she's sassy, but can she get her life together? Of course not, or there'd be no series. Manchester girl Linda works in a dull job, has a string of crap boyfriends ("I'm not a slapper. I just go off people really quickly") and could do with a tad more self-respect. But she has fun; a bunch of good mates, a Mr Right standing by until the day Linda realises He's The One, great family and an after-hours gig murdering girl power anthems down the local social club.

The singing thing is the only off-key note in a series that transcends its calculated origins; people applaud the vile versions of such classics as Downtown and Walk On By and the odd bit of tripe that doesn't suffer at all (Kiss Me Baby One More Time). I thought, perhaps, they were intended to set the scene for each episode's A story - the format allows for two, one lighter than the other, but neither entering Joseph Conrad territory, thank God - the way cafe and pub background tracks in EastEnders ironically underpin the action, but no. When Linda sings I Am What Am, or Man, I Feel Like a Woman, it isn't to get the Linda Goes Lesbian episode up and running, they're just there in lieu of a theme tune, which is odd, as the end credits feature a more than servicable samba-style piece.

Suffice to say, Linda decides not to tread the Sapphic route full-time, but it's a fun ride (ahem). Other stories include Linda trying to help her parents' suddenly bumpy marriage, while wondering if she's more offended by women at her workplace being sexually harassed, or the fact that she personally isn't; and Linda's lovelife being put under the microscope in the aftermath of a burglary, while best pals Darren and Michelle (wonderful turns from Daniel Ryan and Claire Rushbrook) dip into the world of internet chat rooms. Even when the plots venture into the hinterlands of soap - Linda is torn between a dull twin and a naughty twin - the show retains its believability.

That's down to skilful playing from Tarbuck and Co, understated directing and excellent writing. Linda doesn't particularly deviate from what we might imagine Liza to be when away from, say, the Big Breakfast - and that has to be deliberate. For, despite the strong ensemble playing, with veterans Rachel Davies and Dave Hill standouts as Linda's parents, this is very much a vehicle for La Tarbuck - even when she's not around, you're always aware that Darren and Michelle are Linda's Friends, Iris and Frank Linda's Parents. It's the best of all worlds for Tarbuck, who gets to be star, without having to carry the production.

If directors Sydney Macartney and Beryl Richards have any auteur pretensions, they're kept well under wraps - no clever stylistic tricks, nor distracting visuals. Decisions on set-ups have been made to serve the story and the viewer rather than impress critics or fellow professionals.

The show is the brainchild of Paul Abbott, who came to attention via cracking Cracker scripts and went on to create the classic Clocking Off. He doesn't write every episode of the 10 here, but his fingerprints are evident in the sharp one-liners, strong plots and pitch-perfect resolutions. The writing team includes Russell T Davies, who made his own bit of TV history with Queer As Folk.

To sum up, this is your basic liberated single girl getting by, a Mary Tyler Moore meets Rita Tushingham in Swinging Red Bus film for the new millennium. It doesn't go all out for laughs, as the sainted MTM, but there are great lines aplenty, with at least a couple of out-louds per episode.

It's a tight little series, packed full of wit and warmth. Recommended.

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2003
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Linda Green: The Complete First 
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Liza Tarbuck plays a sassy, sexy single Manchester girl in a well-written BBC TV series.
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Director: Sydney Macartney, Beryl Richards

Writer: Paul Abbott, Daniel Brocklehurst, Russell T Davies, Catherine Johnson

Starring: Liza Tarbuck, Rachel Davies, Sean Gallagher, Claire Rushbrook, Daniel Ryan, Dave Hill

Year: 2002

Runtime: 285 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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