Elin Williams reviews BBC Radio Wales’ new sitcom Passing On which explores grief and loss within familial relationships.
It begins with a death. BBC Radio Wales’ new sitcom Passing On explores the relationship between two brothers following their mother’s death. The two are thrown together after their concerned parent comes up with an innovative solution to keep the pair in touch after she’s gone.
Brothers Matthew and Rhys Williams meet for the reading of their mother’s will at a solicitor’s office. At first, it all seems fairly straight forward: everything split down the middle. There are conditions however before they can get their hands on their inheritance. Paranoid that she was the only link between her sons, Mrs Williams comes up with a plan. Every month, the two brothers must meet and exchange the urn which contains her ashes. Not only that, but the brothers must then spend the day together, at least four hours, and provide photographic evidence for the solicitor. If they do not meet this condition by the time that Rhys is forty years old, the money will be burned. In a bin. The idea is original and actually, quite plausible. In fact, scriptwriter Gareth Gwynn’s mother was said to have seriously suggested the idea to him, so the basis for the sitcom is inspired by real life. The subsequent episodes will undoubtedly follow the brother’s monthly meetings which are likely to be unpredictable and occasionally chaotic given the chalk and cheese dynamic of the two brothers.
Keiron Self voices Matthew, the dry, predictable and steady financial advisor (NOT accountant) whilst Richard Elis voices thirty-five year old musician Rhys who accidentally purchases a murderer’s van in a Pizza Hut car park. Interestingly enough, it is Self’s character that provokes the most laughs. His unfortunate position in these scenarios is more realistic than perhaps the nature of Rhys’ slapstick character. This certain form of obvious comedy can, at times, detract from Gwynn’s genuinely funny and well crafted script. Of course, this type of comedy is down to personal taste, but the real humour lies in Matthew’s exchange with the police officer/client who, seizing the opportunity to kill two birds, is keen to discuss his pension options with Matthew whilst simultaneously detaining him on suspicion of murder.
Passing On’s first episode is engaging and entertaining. The concept is original and the script is funny. That said, the show does not really do anything new or exciting. It is a conventional sitcom, but therein lays the problem: it is just another sitcom. Considering that the story at its core is unusual, this show could have been something a bit darker with more of an edge. Of course there is a market for this type of comedy, but is that all we want as an audience? Radio is not the easiest medium for comedy, especially in this fast-paced YouTube and social media dominated era. Gareth Gwynn’s script cannot really be criticised for what it is; it is a solid sitcom. The televised sitcom has come a long way from the days of Dad’s Army to Gervais’ The Office. Perhaps the same revolution needs to happen in the world of radio comedy. Passing On has so much potential to push the boundaries with this subject matter and perhaps it will do so in the next five episodes.