I have conflicting views about this sit-com. Part of me thinks not much happened in it and that Murray(Ben Miller’s character), was a poor man’s Basil Fawlty. On the other hand, I did find it funny to watch at times. The fact I watched all six episodes and never gave up on it must mean that I enjoyed it to some degree. It was good without being exceptional, watchable without being incredible and amusing without ever being hilarious.
To coin and adapt that famous old Roy Walker catchphrase ‘SAY WHAT YOU SEE’, the title of this sit-com really could not have made it any clearer regarding what this show was all about. In episode one we saw Bex(Caroline Catz) leaving her husband Murray because she claimed he was too much of a workaholic and that she never saw enough of him. Apart from that and hearing ‘I need some space to sort my head out'(about twenty times), that is all we had to go on as to why she felt the need to leave him. The rest of the series then took the form of Murray trying to woo her back into his arms. As there were six episodes to this then I had a funny feeling this was going to be a six week wooathon.
Nareesha : ” It’s just as acting head of department I ought to do it but I’m not very good with funny stories or jokes”.
Some of the supporting cast worked and some did not. Intentional office bore Nareesha(so boring she was meant to be funny…but wasn’t) just irritated me for the first five episodes. I did not find her funny whatsoever. Therefore, when she uttered that line above about not being funny or any good at telling jokes, I thought ‘blimey, couldn’t have put it any better myself that’. To my great surprise though this character did make me chuckle in this final episode. Her overly boring speech about the weather being ‘STILL OVERCAST’ on the first three days she met Murray made me laugh, together with her later quizzing Murray whether she was sexually satisfying their boss Curtis enough?
I know at the start I made a somewhat disparaging comment about Murray being a poor imitation of the great Basil Fawlty character from Fawlty Towers, nevertheless this comparison does have some long legs to it(quite literally in both their cases). Murray’s dialogue and the delivery style of Ben Miller reminded me so much of Basil Fawlty(aka John Cleese) at times. The best example of this was in episode six when Murray addressed some guests at his in-laws wedding anniversary party. For example, Murray stated,
“Ladies and gentlemen, I just need to make a small announcement. I think one or two of you may have got the wrong end of the…err…..pregnancy testing stick. Err Don and Paula are indeed going to be grandparents but the bearer of said child is, is, is not in fact Bex, it’s their other daughter Keeley…..er Keeley is having the baby, ah here she is so congratulations to Keeley”.
The way Ben Miller paused and gesticulated throughout this dialogue, it was sooooo Basil Fawlty ish. It reminded me of that episode of Fawlty Towers when an exasperated Basil kept addressing all the guests about a fire drill.
Episode four of I Want My Wife Back also strongly reminded me of Fawlty Towers. This was the one where Murray went for a meal with Bex but somehow at the same time also ended up having a meal with his new love rival Julian. The way Murray kept running from table to table getting more and more exasperated and panic stricken as he tried to prevent them from bumping into one another, it was so reminiscent of Basil Fawlty type behaviour. I am thinking in particular here of the Gourmet Night episode in Fawlty Towers where Basil runs around like a headless chicken trying to serve duck.
I could take the Fawlty Towers analogy a stage further and argue that Murray’s brother Grant(Kenneth Collard) was the Manuel character(much smaller in both physical and professional statue to Murray), and Murray’s father-in-law had certain similarities to the famous old Major in Fawlty Towers. I need to make it clear here that in no way, shape, or form I am saying that I Want My Wife Back is anywhere near as good as Fawlty Towers. My point is though that both in terms of the script and the acting, it is clear that I Want My Wife Back was heavily influenced by the legendary Fawlty Towers. I would argue this influence was too much perhaps because once I had recognised this link then it started to play on my mind all of the time whilst watching it. I even thought of Basil Fawlty again as Murray ran after Bex dressed up in all his scuba diving gear towards the end of episode six. The flippers accentuated Ben Miller’s long legs just like running up the hotel’s stairs magnified the amusing sight of John Cleese’s very long legs.
I Want My Wife Back ended with the happy ending that I had craved six weeks for, maybe ‘craved’ is overdoing it tad…..hoped. I would have felt like exploding if there had not been a happy reunion between Murray and Bex. These days it really irritates me how lots of new shows don’t seem to conclude the way they should, namely because they have an eye on hopefully getting recommissioned for a follow-up series. Bex embracing Murray at the end was a fitting ending to an OK series.
I want a second series of I Want My Wife Back………JUST ABOUT, but my hunch is that this show will be declared NULL AND VOID by the BBC powers that be! 3/5.