Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me Review

FAST FREDDIE, THE WIDOW AND ME: Tuesday 27th December, ITV1, 9pm

As Christmas cultural conventions go, redemption TV is a given. ‘Tis the season when needy orphans and narrow-minded narcissists collide, inspiring us all to become better people once we manage to stop crying. This year’s festive morality feast comes courtesy of ITV drama Fast Freddie, the Widow and Me. Lawrence Fox (Lewis, Wired) plays Jonathan Donald, a cash-rich, empathy-poor car dealer who sports red braces and quaffs champagne; ladies and gentlemen, meet our yuppie villain. Handed community service for drink-driving – the most heinous of Yuletide crimes – he pitches up at the Moonbeam Club, an urban youth centre run by long-suffering widow Laura (Sarah Smart of Doctor Who fame). Cue multiple Hallmark revelations about the need to help others, culminating in Jonathan staging a ‘perfect Christmas’ for Freddie, aka The Nice One With Not Long Left. So far, so Christmas Carol.

But this festive drama has a twist: it’s actually rather good. A punchy and surprising script (ever seen Tamzin Outhwaite play happy fake families with a prostitute, a pervert and Marina from Doctors?) stops Fast Freddy becoming a turkey. Writer Christopher Dunlop has returned to ‘dramedy’ terra firma, injecting his brand of funny-with-feeling with some seasonal soul. The result skates perilously close to schmaltz – scenes of Jonathan and Freddy’s man-bonding could be subtitled with ‘LOOK! WE’RE ALL THE SAME REALLY!’ – but a constant flow of golden one-liners dispel any melodrama.

It’s in the money vs. time territory that Fast Freddy gets interesting, making a play for the seasonal zeitgeist by depicting ‘wonderful things that can happen without logic or explanation’. Or, in the case of Jonathan’s manufactured Christmas miracle, with the help of a gargantuan bank balance and a dubious take on the truth. But even though Freddy’s staged dream is ultimately rent-a-Christmas, it makes everyone involved happy. Jonathan’s money alone isn’t responsible; Dunlop makes sure we’re aware that true festive joy comes from being with those you love. (Crying yet?) But it’s a brave move by ITV to portray a wealthy protagonist making a difference by flashing his cash, without donning a Downton Abbey costume first. That’s what this drama seems to boil down to: give what you can, however you can. Just do something.

Sure, it’s a little twinkly at times. However, armed with strong performances across the board (Fox so nails nouveau-toff-pseudo-Scrooge that you’ll question whether he’s acting) Fast Freddy is a fresh take on Christmas’ eternal questions: What makes the ‘perfect’ Christmas? Do families stretch beyond blood ties? And why is Tamzin Outhwaite dressed like Dolly Parton?