Major finale spoilers ahead…
In what was originally going to be the last episode ever of Not Going Out (save the 2015 Christmas special), Lee prepares for his marriage to Lucy. However, Lee’s rocky relationship with his father Frank upturns the groom’s happy day. Lee’s having daddy issues. In fact, Frank’s “gift” to his neglected son is to take him on an all night bender the night before the wedding and get them both thrown in the slammer. Lucy’s father Geoffrey tries to come to the rescue but winds up right in the cell with them. Not to worry, though. Geoffrey’s apparently stolen wedding ring gets sorted out. Running unacceptably late, Lee and the fathers rush to the church.
Walking down the aisle, we see past guest stars in the crowd, triggering flashbacks. While some of these series highlights are indeed that–like Lee and Tim singing Elaine Paige–most of them seem random. Likewise, while one or two of the guest stars, like the lady with the dead pigeon, are memorable, I was hard-pressed to recognize many of them. It has the feel of a sitcom that hired just whoever was available. For example, although Guy was in many episodes, it doesn’t make sense to have Lucy’s ex-boyfriend invited to the wedding. The saving grace here is the last-minute Graduate-style appearance of Tim Vine, who had been absent since season 5. This surprise, after tricking the viewers in the beginning to think they yet again wrote him out of the script by saying his plane was delayed in Germany, makes up for everything. The one guest star it’s sorely missing is Barbara, their cleaner, but Miranda Hart was probably busy doing her own finale…
In the last ever episode of Miranda, Miranda prepares for her marriage to Gary. However, Miranda has trust issues and Gary has commitment issues, leading them both to second guess this relationship. It is decided in therapy that Miranda’s reliance on (and yet abhorrence of) her mother is to blame for not being mature enough to handle a relationship. Miranda’s having mommy issues. In fact, she realizes that breaking up with Gary is masking her true sense of relief: having finally stood up her mother. Stevie and Tilly try to help, but it’s really up to Miranda to sort things out. Thinking Gary is about to marry the new waitress, she rushes to the church to stop the wedding.
The episode is littered with flashbacks, triggered either by significant reoccurring themes or the re-appearance of past guest stars. Unlike in Not Going Out, most of these are memorable, like Mark Heap as the therapist.
Miranda: Guys, seriously, I’m fine.
Therapist: You’re wearing a giraffe onesie, carrying a loom.
The next best guest star is Dominic Coleman as the customer Miranda had essentially kidnapped to help her through her last breakup with Gary. He’s back and he is used in the best possible way. I literally started crying, I laughed so hard when he magically appeared during the therapy intervention. My one regret is that he was not a series regular. Finally, the best and most surprising character to show up, like Tim in Not Going Out, was Clive, who’s been mysteriously away for at least a season. With the final addition of Gary Barlow and Heather Small, they did everything they could have done for casting.
Miranda: I’ve also realized that women like me can be sexy. It’s just the world might never affirm it, so it takes a little longer to realize it.
Although the jokes are tight, Miranda is not all about gags. The acting between Hart and Ellis during their breakup is chokingly dramatic, and the psychoanalysis of the protagonist and her mother issues is unmatched by any other sitcom I’ve seen. That isn’t to say that there isn’t some psychoanalytical stuff going on with Lee in Not Going Out. In fact, season one sees him in a therapy session where he’s revealed to be using his sense of humor as a device to deflect his true feelings for his roommate. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get fleshed out and resolved quite as much as in Miranda.
Because Ricky Gervais considers Derek a sitcom rather than a comedy drama, it’s only fair to include its recent finale in this article. Like Not Going Out and Miranda, it is planned to be the last every episode and like Not Going Out and Miranda, it ends with a wedding. However, it does not quite fit the formula, as rather than a love story desperate not to mess up the wedding plans, it’s really about forgiveness and acceptance of another character, Kev, and the wedding is really a side plot to that. The title character is not getting married. There is no re-appearance of a former character (the obvious choice would have been Karl Pilkington.) There are no sappy flashbacks. In some ways, Derek is a more mature look at the characters on the sidelines of life.
A fantastic piece on the similarities of these two shows from Paul Kerensa's blog.