2014 - United Kingdom

Boomers is reviewed by Brian Slade

For many years, Last of the Summer Wine was the dominant British comedy for senior citizens. Warm and gentle, it ran from 1973 until its unceremonious axing in 2010. But its departure from our screens didn’t spell the end of comedy for retirees. In 2014, Boomers arrived on BBC One, an enjoyable sitcom focussing around three couples in the fictional seaside town of Thurnemouth, the only western facing resort in Norfolk.

Alan and Joyce are a married couple coming to terms with retirement. Joyce (Alison Steadman – Abigail’s Party, Gavin & Stacey) is soon to retire, while Alan (Philip Jackson – Robin of Sherwood) has already done so. Joyce is somewhat of a nit-picker with Alan, who seemingly can do no right. If he does nothing, or heaven forbid does something for himself, he is in trouble. If he does something, Joyce will chastise him for getting it wrong. Joyce is also very much aware of her social standing and is determined to not let Alan show her up. Any public fall from grace isn’t to be countered or tolerated, so poor Alan must face the gripes of Joyce in private, and then watch her change her tune in public.


Alan and Joyce have two couples around whom their primary social lives focus. First up are Maureen and John. Maureen (Stephanie Beecham – Coronation Street) is seen as somewhat superior, while husband John (Russ Abbot - Madhouse) is one of those always-knows-best types who rarely actually does. Joyce is invariably critical of Maureen in private but trying to impress her in public. Alan would mostly rather not have to deal with John at all.

The third couple are perhaps the most unlikely and therefore the most comical. Carol and Trevor’s marriage appears to be on the rocks, albeit Trevor is blissfully unaware of the fact when we first meet them. Married for 40 years, Carol (Paula Wilcox – Man About the House, The Lovers) is in need of something more exciting in her life than Trevor can offer. Trevor (James Smith – The Thick of It) for his part has become exceedingly dull. He has extensive knowledge of policies and procedures, preferring excellent deals with static caravans than experiencing the life that retirement might offer.


The six lead characters navigate the edge of retirement with different levels of success. John and Maureen seem the most stable of the three couples. Alan is grouchy beyond measure, sometimes with Joyce, sometimes with life. He drifts back into the workforce welcoming customers to a garden centre but is unable to put enough joy in his welcome to satisfy his much younger supervisor. Joyce is forever trying to get more time with her new grandchild and forever disparaging others to Alan, whose lot in life seems to now be to absorb the frustrations and complaints of others. Trevor and Carol meanwhile make various attempts to inject some life into their marriage after counselling sessions, with decidedly mixed results.


There are a couple of guest stars across the two series that make an impact. Mick (Nigel Planer – The Young Ones), an old friend of the gentlemen in the group, visits from Australia. Initially seen as a smarmy success and one of the few people to impress Alan, his appearance in the second series brings him somewhat down to earth as he pitches up in a caravan having fallen on harder times, much to the consternation of Joyce.

Undoubtedly the guest star to steal the show, as she often did, is June Whitfield (Terry and June, Absolutely Fabulous) taking on the role of Maureen’s mother, Joan. Joan is always on the lookout for a glass of wine and has reached the age where mischief and inappropriate behaviour is the norm, culminating in her marrying a much younger man in the final episode of the second series.


The comedy of Boomers is gentle but on a par with any sitcoms of its day. Richard Pinto has a significant catalogue of comedy writing credits to his name, and here he chooses to approach the challenges of moving into retirement age as a married couple with warmth and honesty but taking a decidedly different approach from the antics of the slapstick variety to befall various pensioners depicted in Last of the Summer Wine.

The stars of Boomers are all on fine form, a particular joy to see Paula Wilcox back where she thrives in sitcom land. Alison Steadman has carved out a niche acting territory that few others can inhabit, while Stephanie Beecham carries an air of superiority that pitches just the right side of tolerability. James Smith is gloriously dull as Trevor, aside from when he smokes something he shouldn’t, and Russ Abbot remains as consistently effective as his unjustly overlooked talents always have. That there were no more episodes after the second series of Boomers is most definitely our loss.

Published on July 8th, 2024. Written by Brian Slade for Television Heaven.

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