Not Going Out
Image: BBC/Avalon/Mark Johnson

‘Not Going Out’: Resolutions

The festive season always comes full of TV specials, and this year, we were treated to a one-off outing from Lee Mack’s Not Going Out. The New Year’s special, aptly titled ‘Resolutions’, sees the cast gather for a party that turns a little personal, and it ranks as one of the funniest new comedies I’ve seen this year.

   It’s New Year’s Eve, and a party game of sticky notes on foreheads quickly devolves into a row when Lee (Lee Mack) accuses Geoffrey (Geoffrey Whitehead) of cheating. Tensions rise as Anna (Abigail Cruttenden) and Toby (Hugh Dennis) fanaticise about being elsewhere for the holiday, while Wendy (Deborah Grant) has had a little too much to drink. As the bickering reaches fever pitch, Lucy (Sally Bretton) has had enough – she suggests that they think about self-improvement for the New Year, and threatens them with a trifle over the head if they don’t take it seriously. But friendly suggestions swiftly move onto more insulting observations.

   This episode was filmed under Covid restrictions, although you’d barely know from the set-up – it retains all the show’s usual energy, even with the characters spending most of the time just sitting down. It was also really good to see it avoid the same issue that most post-Covid comedies suffer – making the whole thing about ‘aren’t our lives different now?’. There’s one lockdown joke, a pithy observation from Geoffrey about how the strained family evening made him realise that being forced to stay away wasn’t too bad after all, and it works well because it feels like a character joke rather than a Covid one.

This episode was filmed under Covid restrictions, although you’d barely know from the set-up

   ‘Resolutions’ boasts a lot of good lines – the joy of Not Going Out is that it throws joke after joke at you, so some are bound to land no matter what. I laughed a lot – the show’s combination of wordplay gags and character gags lands just right. (Not the trifle one, though – I swear it was remade about five times throughout the episode). But the episode also had a bit of a sting, as the discussion turned to finding faults, and long-time viewers would be rewarded with the way the character dynamics play out. It all builds up to a climax that you’ll see coming a mile off, but which is cathartic and hilarious nonetheless.

   The show’s cast are all old hands at this now, but I want to draw special attention to Bobby Ball as Lee’s father Frank. The actor tragically died of Covid in October, shortly after filming ‘Resolutions’, and it’s really poignant to see him here causing trouble and being typically cheeky. He’s on top form as a man who doesn’t quite get why his tongue-in-cheek gags are criticised by the other family members, and he continues his adversarial relationship with Geoffrey and flirtatious remarks with Wendy (who is in a far more receptive mood than usual – Deborah Grant acting drunk is a gift that keeps on giving here). If you wait until after the credits, there’s a nice tribute to him too which, based on social media reactions, has every chance of bringing a tear to your eye.

Come to this one for the gags, and for one of the most accurate representations of a family at Christmas you’ll see in a while

   I’m not going to claim that this Not Going Out special is the freshest comedy you’ll watch this Christmas, but it doesn’t claim to be – its focus is on being accessible and funny, and there, it delivers in spades. Come to this one for the gags, and for one of the most accurate representations of a family at Christmas you’ll see in a while. In a Christmas schedule of mixed-quality TV, Not Going Out ranks towards the top.

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