Click and Collect

Click and Collect

2018 - United Kingdom

“a wonderful balance of slapstick road trip comedy and heart-rending sincerity”

Review by Brian Slade (December 2023)

As the festive season approaches, we become more reliant on the internet for Christmas shopping than ever before. Rather than a dash down Woolworths (look it up!) for a one-stop shop on Christmas Eve, we now trust the web to fulfil the wishes of our nearest and dearest. And then, horror of horrors, we click reserve and see the words that send dread to many a last-minute shopper – out of stock. Never fear, a quick click on ‘change store’ will surely solve the woes…but not for Stephen Merchant, whose reluctant obligation to buy his daughter the toy of the year involves him travelling over four hours to Carlisle with his nightmare neighbour, in the jolly one-off BBC special, Click and Collect.

Andrew Bennett (Merchant) is doing his duty, collecting the year’s number one Christmas toy, Sparklehoof – The Unicorn Princess, reserved by his wife two weeks previous. As she didn’t pay for it at the time of reservation, he is told that the price has now risen by £20, which is an injustice that he is not prepared to tolerate, and he returns home with an inferior alternative for his daughter Emily – a chemistry set.

Click and Collect

Failing to secure his daughter’s main present isn’t the only thing making Andrew’s Christmas spirit sag. His ever-chipper neighbour, Dev (Asim Choudhry) is pushing all his buttons, starting with covering both his and Andrew’s homes with enough lights to divert passenger jets on an inbound journey. Dev is oblivious to his disapproval, partly due to his ever-optimistic outlook to the world and partly due to Andrew (referred to by Dev constantly as Andy) trying every method possible to enlighten his neighbour of his disapproval without resorting to having an honest conversation.

Andrew’s world implodes on Christmas Eve. Wife Claire (Sophia Di Martino) has tried everywhere to secure another Sparkle, without success – but then Dev arrives to announce he has tracked down what he is sure is the last one in the country. All Andrew has to do is collect it from Carlisle to avoid a meltdown from either Claire or Emily. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Dev will join him for the nine-hour return trip from Bedford!

The journey is Andrew’s worst nightmare. Dev’s beatbox routines, poor directions and battery powered Christmas lights he attached to the windscreen are just the start of the tests of his patience. Follow that by getting marooned in a flooded shortcut, rewarded with a dunking in the ford and being forced to spend the rest of the journey in an elf suit, and it’s safe to say Andrew hates every moment.

Click and Collect

Dev continues to press the buttons…putting diesel in the petrol car sets them back seemingly irreparably. Andrew is ready to throw in the towel, but Dev wants to continue the journey. His own kids are thousands of miles away at Christmas with their mother and her new man, and he is desperately trying to save Emily’s Christmas with enthusiasm that Andrew seems not to have.

Despite making it to the store in time, trouble continues to follow the pair and while not spoiling the outcome, bizarre car chases, financial identity theft and break-ins follow, all in the name of Christmas.

Stephen Merchant is no stranger to mainstream comedy success. As well as his co-writing of The Office and The Outlaws (which he created) he was an excellent guest star in Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. His amiability is perfect for Click and Collect. Initially, simply a man who doesn’t like being ripped off at the festive season, Andrew subsequently questions his parenting. Merchant is eminently believable as he struggles through his introspection. Meanwhile, Choudhry is hysterical as the annoying but loveable neighbour who is struggling to fill the void of being separated from his own children at Christmas.

It's perhaps too early to call Click and Collect a Christmas classic, initially released in 2018. However, writers Joe Tucker and Lloyd Woolf struck a wonderful balance of slapstick road trip comedy and heart-rending sincerity, and their script fights the commercialism of a modern Christmas with realism and warmth. If you’re looking for something beyond the Vicar of Dibley and Only Fools and Horses reruns to bring a warm glow during the festive season, Click and Collect will deliver exactly that.

Published on December 14th, 2023. Written by Brian Slade for Television Heaven.

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