Jo Brand returns to the world of sitcoms with her new series Damned. Set in an office of social workers, the supposedly bitter-sweet comedy follows a group of co-workers through the everyday happenings in their workplace. Despite Brand’s previous sitcom success in Getting On, a hilarious fly-on-the-wall style series about the medical staff in a geriatric ward, Channel 4’s new comedy is neither bitter nor sweet enough to live up to Brand’s previous writing.
Damned has a reasonably star-studded cast, but unfortunately the writing does not do the acting justice. Jo Brand plays Rose, a compassionate social worker with a wry sense of humour. Her co-worker Al (Alan Davies) is her well-meaning but slightly incompetent work husband. The two struggle to balance their demanding workload with their equally demanding personal lives, and both completely fail to keep them separate. Nitin, ex-police officer and resident bureaucrat, is played by Himish Patel and provides the opposite to the two older social workers: he puts organisation and professionalism above the needs of their clients.
Moments of striking poignancy occur when the social workers visit the houses of those in their care, providing the face of a real person whose story would otherwise have been laughed off. The best example of this is when a joke is made about the rumour of a teacher sleeping with a student.
A few scenes later, Rose (Brand) visits the mother who was the source of the rumour, to discover that the only reason she knows is because she secretly reads her daughter’s messages to check that her mood swings are ‘hormones and not drugs or grooming’. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough humour to counteract this, so such scenes end up being more awkward than poignant.
Due to their similar filming style, Damned just comes across as a less funny version of The Office. The jokes are not funny enough for this to be hilarious, and the moments of poignancy are not particularly hard-hitting either.
Image: Jesús Corrius @ Flickr