Sitcom Not Going Out (2006-2015) is 7 series long. There was a gap between series 3 and 4 because the show was cancelled in 2009 and then renewed in 2011. There are thus far 55 episodes. It’s written by and stars “always cheeky, never blue” comedian Lee Mack. The cast also includes Sally Bretton, Tim Vine, Katy Wix, Miranda Hart, and Megan Dodds. All the episodes are available on DVD region 2/Pal. It has been available on Hulu on occasion.
Thirty-nine-year-old Lee, who is based on Lee Mack when he was younger, is a lay-about with a seemingly incurable illness: he cannot stop himself from making jokey one-liners, no matter how hard he tries, no matter how inappropriate the situation. The psychiatrist tells him it’s because he is unable to express his emotions, particularly that he’s fallen in love with his best friend Tim’s ex-girlfriend Kate, who also happens to be his landlady/flatmate ever since Tim moved out. After series 1, Kate moves away to America, and Tim’s sister Lucy becomes Lee’s new landlady/flatemate. Lee finds himself falling in love with Lucy, and everyone knows it but her. Their cleaner Miranda and Tim’s new girlfriend Daisy act as the angels on Lee’s shoulders, trying to help him devise plans to get in good with Lucy, but Lee’s haplessness always mucks it up and he winds up worse than where he started. Meanwhile, Tim goes out of his way to keep Lee from going near his sister.
Lee is my favorite character. Unrequited love is an age-old sitcom device, but Lee’s incurable wit makes him unique. I think this show must hold the record for most one-liners in half an hour. Lee is constantly ripped on for being from the North, and he makes frequent references to his awful upbringing by uncaring parents, one of whom returns frequently to cause trouble.
I really liked Kate, though she’s very much the same construct as Lucy. Unlike Lucy, she’s American, which means after she leaves the show, we sadly do not get anymore American jokes. Another reason I like Kate: She’s in book publishing, like me. She even sets Lee up with a date with one of her authors, which fails miserably when he finds out that she’s a depressed ex-prostitute that won’t stop talking about how she was abused as a child.
Lucy is smart and wry, and she probably fancies Lee, but never admits it to anyone. She tries to give him a chance to win her over, but something always goes wrong. The show is one big will-they-won’t-they between Lucy and Lee. She is a job-focused independent business woman. She is ten years younger than Tim, and they frequently make references to silly events from their childhood, usually related to Tim’s feminine side.
Tim, Lee’s best mate, is a polite, well-bred guy with a boring day job. As much as he tries to avoid getting wrapped up in Lee’s plots, he always finds himself in some kind of trouble or other, whether it’s breaking into a jewel smuggler’s office, buying washing powder off a drugs dealer, or burgling the flat of Lee’s upstairs neighbor. Although his character is still talked about in series 6, Tim Vine is no longer on the show.
Daisy is Tim’s dopey girlfriend that Tim met after a speed-dating session where Lee and Daisy failed to impress each other. There is a sort of unintended brilliance to her, as she’s always misinterpreting what is said and done, but the connections that she’s misunderstood are immensely clever. She confuses things like Scooby Doo with Snoop Doggy Dog.
Barbara is played by comedienne Miranda Hart. Barbara is constantly breaking things in Lucy’s apartment, which Lucy never minds and Lee has grown to accept. She’s often caught not working, which is a target for discussion-opening jokes. She starts off as the one who offers advice to Lee when he is alone about how to impress Lucy, almost as though, like the Sixth Sense, he’s the only one who can see her. After Barbara leaves the show, Daisy takes up this role.
Season 1: Kate takes a clown class, Lee dresses up as Tim’s relatives at a funeral, Lee and Kate have to pretend to be a couple in front of Kate’s Aussie friend, Lee tries to teach Kate to drive and she winds up crashing the car, and Lee moves into the flat downstairs, but winds up moving back with her after they realize how much they miss each other.
Season 2: Lee has to pretend to by gay in front of Lucy’s new boyfriend Guy, Tim and Lee give a baby a sonogram when they think it’s eaten their football, Lee goes speed-dating where he meets Daisy, Lee accuses Guy of being a diamond smuggler, Lee makes a bad first impression with Lucy’s parents at Christmas.
Season 3: Lucy tricks Lee into thinking he’s gotten her pregnant by wanking in her bath, Lee has to pretend to be blind and Tim has to pretend to be in a wheelchair when a reporter comes around to interview them, Lucy unsuccessfully tries to have a fling with a lesbian, Tim and Lee trash Lee’s neighbor’s apartment in order to get Lee’s toothbrush back, Lucy makes an inappropriate business speech in a see-through dress, Lucy gets engaged to a refugee to keep him from getting deported (he winds up marrying Barbara instead), and Lee’s father returns with some bogus story about how he’s dying so that he can score some cash from his son, who now has a job as an ice cream man.
Season 4: Tim and Lee accidentally lose a gangster’s cocaine, a girl shows up on Lee’s doorstep claiming to be his daughter, Lee winds up starring in a porn film taking place in Lucy’s flat, Lee is stuck with an old lady who’s wandered into his flat and won’t go away, and Lee goes into a coma and has weird dreams ala Life on Mars. (In fact, the beginning of this episode is shot-for-shot an homage to my favorite TV program, Life on Mars, and this episode is aptly named Life on Mars Bas.)
Series 5: Lee and Tim join a rock band, the car breaks down in the woods and gets surrounded by scary clown people, Lee eyes men’s testicles in the sauna because he’s afraid there’s something wrong with his own and is too embarrassed to go to the doctor, and Lucy tricks Lee (and herself) into thinking that they slept together, which results in Lucy’s family huddling around the television to watch their “sex tape.”
Season 6: Lucy kills two rabbits and sends Lee to return the (wrong) rabbit to its owner, they get stuck in a ski lift where Lee delivers a baby, Lee poses as Lucy’s husband, ex-husband, and father to different people at a business conference, Lee gets stalked by Daisy’s homicidal friend Rachel, Lee hijacks the play Lucy is starring in, Lee and Lucy get locked in a magic box and lose 13 children at a birthday party, Lee’s dad convinces them all to come stay on his new boat, which sinks in the sea while they are still on it.
What makes the show so funny is the dialogue. With that many jokes per minute, you expect some of them to be throw-away jokes, but they’re all very clever and well-thought-out. There are hundreds to choose from. Here are just a few good ones.
Lee: Right. That’s it. It’s time for Doctor Who to sort out the Pervy Squid. Oddjob? You and Captain Pedantic might want to stand back because I’m evicting Batman’s rentboy.
Lee: Apart from not learning French, je ne regrette croissant.
Lee: Just because Thora Hird can’t climb stairs doesn’t mean she’s a Dalek.
Doctor: Do you have any history of heart disease?
Lee: Yes. Heart disease was discovered in 1784 by…
When you’re in the 7th season with the same old formula, you really need to push the “will they, won’t they” up a notch. After a place-holder episode 1 and an episode 2 that rehashes the baby-sitting escapades of season 2 (with added stupidity that makes you question why Lucy would ever want to have a baby), episode 3 finally puts Lee and Lucy in the bedroom together, albeit because Lucy bullies him into being her sperm donor. However, Lee, ever the romantic, is still holding out for a real relationship with his landlady, one that is not obscured by a pre-designed estranged fatherhood that would mean he’d become in charge of this baby if Lucy was killed in a car crash. Episode 3 is a real treat, especially since Lee Mack applies his knack for wordplay to 40 minutes of non-stop innuendos.
Outnumbered‘s Hugh Dennis plays Toby, the new neighbor upstairs who doesn’t like Lee but resigns to his companionship when he sees how badly he stirs the nerves of his over-bearing wife. Eventually, he settles into the Tim-shaped hole left by Tim Vine’s departure at the end of season 5.
In a leap just left of reality, this season takes Lee and Daisy onto the game show Pointless with Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. Although much more absurd than Lee getting drunk and ruining an evening out, many people will find this episode to be their favorite, even if they aren’t familiar with the celebrities.
Bobby Ball returns as Lee’s alcoholic father Frank. Ball represents Lee Mack’s success in many ways because Mack used to stand on the roof of his school doing Bobby Ball impressions to get attention after the kids made fun of his northern accent, and now Ball is playing his father on his own sitcom. This year, Frank deflects accusations that he’s an alcoholic by getting Lee and Lucy to wonder if they themselves drink too much. Of course, it’s all a rouse to be allowed to stay in their apartment for longer.
We also see a reality-inspired plane trip where Lee has a meltdown when he mistakes a man for being a terrorist and nearly gets shot for acting like a terrorist himself. The real Lee Mack is also afraid of flying.
Episode 9 makes a beautiful finale with a pub discussion between Lee and Toby about Lee’s relationship (or lack thereof) with Lucy. Will Toby be able to convince Lee to admit his feelings to his landlady before he loses her for good? Season 7 will soon be on DVD. The series finale special will be reviewed in a separate spoiler-full blog post. Season 7 is predicted to be the final season of the series.
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. Not Going Out is one of her favorite sitcoms. Her favorite episodes are Fireworks, Drunk, Play, Life on Mars Bars, Band, and Camping. Follow Jaime on Twitter.
Originally posted Sept. 22, 2013