I don’t know where Romesh Ranganathan finds the time.
The loveable, cantankerous stand-up has become a mainstay on TV in recent years and – despite being in danger of overexposure – is consistently one of the funniest performers in the British comedy scene.
And yet, surprisingly, he’s never written and starred in his own sitcom. But now, there’s Avoidance.
Written alongside Benjamin Green, Avoidance is about conflict-adverse beta male, Jonathan, played by Romesh himself, who we meet in the first episode being dumped by his partner (Jessica Knappett) who has finally had more than enough of his nonsense.
Jonathan, naturally, buries his head in the sand and decides the best thing to do is to steal their son Spencer (Kieran Logendra) away to his sister’s house in an effort to buy time. Don’t worry, it’s not as dark as that last sentence sounds.
There’s actually the roots of a very clever sitcom in Avoidance. Jonathan, at least on the face of it, seems like a decent guy, doting dad and someone who clearly loves his partner – so what if he’d rather ignore problems then deal with them?
It’s only as you see more of his day-to-day life that you realise just how infuriating that would be to live with. The show, then, is about Jonathan learning to assert himself and stop life merely passing him by.
And, at times, it works. The relationship between Jonathan and his sister (Mandeep Dhillon) and her wife Courtney (Lisa McGrillis) gets most of the laughs.
The pair of them quite clearly want him out of their house as soon as possible – but it’s impossible to shame him into any action as he’ll just keep lying and kicking the can down the road.
It’s the relationship with his son that grants the show most of its emotional power. Jonathan is well aware of the bad example he’s setting to Spencer and clearly doesn’t want him to turn out like him, it’s a touching relationship and, in Logendra, they’ve found a child actor who can really sell the hurt of his parent’s split, but also sell the sheer embarrassment of having a dad who’ll cheat at Laser Quest only to get immediately caught.
It’s not all plain sailing, however, as Avoidance, despite a winning cast and some decent jokes, is hardly perfect.
Knappett is completely underused as Claire, wasting her natural comic timing in a role that mostly boils down to ‘disappointed partner’ – but the show’s biggest flaw is Jonathan himself.
Not Ranganathan, I stress, who turns in a convincing performance in a role clearly based on himself.
The problem is that comedy is an active medium which thrives on conflict and Jonathan is a passive character who, well, doesn’t.
You can get around this by having your character be very reactive – like, say, Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm – but Jonathan isn’t really even that.
Things just kind of happen to him. It makes him quite frustrating to watch, and while that’s somewhat the point, it won’t stop you screaming at the screen for him to pull himself together.
Avoidance may end up being the rare sitcom that actually gets better as their central character learns more about themselves.
Until then, however, it’s a show with plenty of potential, not too unlike its main character.
Avoidance airs tonight at 9.30pm on BBC One.