The Job Lot


The Job Lot

ITV, 29 April at 21:30

The idea of a sitcom set in a Jobcentre seems promising on paper, not simply because it’s a risible institution that’s about as effective at helping people find work as lazily wafting a hand about in the air is at warding away flies, but also because there are currently more unemployed people in the UK than there are idiots walking around wearing Beats headphones. Plus, in an age of Daily Mail sensationalism and Ian Duncan Smith gaffes, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for such a programme to appear on our screens.

The Job Lot is ITV’s attempt: a decent enough comedy that is unfortunately light on satire, and treads just a little bit too close to territory that has previous been covered by other sitcoms. Aside from the fact that it looks and feels unmistakably like an ITV production, it’s really not too dissimilar from The Office or even Parks and Recreation. Nor is it as funny as either of these two programmes.

Nevertheless, the characters do have some charm: there’s Karl (Russell Tovey), an uninspired art graduate who works at the Jobcentre, but naturally longs for better things; his neurotic manager Trish (Sarah Hadland); Angela (Jo Enright), an employee who seems to delight in making other people’s lives more difficult; and various claimants, ranging from a hapless father signing on for the first time to a man who attends his weekly appointments dressed only in a blazer.

Episode one sees the Jobcentre staff attempting to turn their claimants from unemployed into “funemployedâ€?, a task that seems to spark a string of events that result to Karl storming out of the building and resigning. But his rebellion is short lived, when upon exiting the building, he bumps into Chloe (Emma Rigby), the new temp. Taking an immediate shine to her, and with the intention of getting to know her better, he decides to return to work and pretend as if nothing has happened.

It’s remarkably similar to an episode of Seinfeld in which a desperate George Costanza, faced with the prospect of unemployment, is forced to return to his job after he resigned the previous day. But then originality is hardly what The Job Lot does best, which is a shame, given the programme’s setting.

There are certainly a few laughs sprinkled throughout the episodes, but as a whole, it feels like a missed opportunity for well-observed satire. Indeed, only one scene really attempts to lampoon the Jobcentre and how it operates. It features the sadistic Angela, who tells a man wishing to sign on that, before she speaks to him, he must first call on the phone and book an appointment. He does, but his troubles don’t end there, and when returns, he’s pushed to the very limits of absurd Jobcentre bureaucracy, much to his frustration.

It’s a shame that the first episode doesn’t feature more scenes of this calibre: one can only hope that there will be more satire as the series continues. Certainly, The Job Lot is a fun and very watchable comedy, but if it’s going to be something truly special, it’ll have to do more than that. Fortunately, this is a promising enough start to stick around for episode two.