At the cinema, romantic comedies may not be dead but they are definitely on the ropes. On the small screen, shows such as Mike & Molly show that audiences will turn up if they are done well. Sadly, however, BBC2's new comedy Boy Meets Girl did not come up to scratch. This is apparently the first piece of scripted television drama with a transgendered person in a lead role. If only the BBC had taken this a little more seriously and not merely performed a box-ticking exercise.
Transgender actor Rebecca Root brought some much needed class to this sorry affair that saw jobless, unemployable twentysomething Leo fall for the older Judy after a chance encounter in a pub. Leo is there playing the wingman to his more outgoing younger brother, while Judy pops in to deliver a cake meant for a hen night. But we get to this "meet cute" way too late in the proceedings; it isn't until we meet Root's character that this episode showed any signs of life. Root is utterly charming as Judy and plays very well with actor Harry Hepple as the laddish Leo.
Boy Meets Girl felt very much as though the episode had been built (very hurriedly) around a ten-minute play. What works about this show is easy - the relationship between Judy and Leo. The supporting characters (including Denise Walsh as Leo's mother Pam) feel as though they have culled from the land of comedy cliché and shoehorned into the proceedings. And to throw an Asian hair salon owner into the mix felt like an afterthought (Oops! We forgot to include someone "ethnic"). I really want to lock the makers of this so-called comedy in a room and make them watch the Mike & Molly pilot on a loop for 24 hours.
There are only so many knob gags any writer should use and first-time writer Elliott Kerrigan scrapped the barrel with his script. Much of the humour is so puerile and the jokes so old, it's hard to believe the script was written in the 21st century. It made me wonder if the entire BBC comedy department was comprised entirely of shut-ins who hadn't left their homes in the past 15 years. And Boy Meets Girl definitely fails the Bechdel test, where two female characters talk about something other than a man. We are given no indication what Judy does for a living. Does she run her own catering business or cake-making enterprise? We are left clueless. She is utterly defined by her decision to change gender.
Yes, Root has charisma but I doubt even she can drag this poorly thought-out affair along by sheer force of personality alone. It will be interesting to see if this show is recommissioned for a second series. If it is, let's hope the BBC has the sense to hire some female writers.
Boy Meets Girl is on Thursdays on BBC2 at 9.30pm