A brilliantly crafted and subversive sitcom, written by 2point4 Children writer Andrew Marshall, Dad centres on the generation gap relationship between father and son. Alan, played by Kevin McNally, is a highly strung and at times Victor Meldrew like family man who clashes with his elderly father Brian's old fashioned views and increasingly annoying habits. George Cole superbly plays the out of touch Brian, and brings an endearing quality to the characters quirks in ways that could have easily been overdone if portrayed by another actor.
Beryl played by Julia Hills (Rona from 2point4 Children), is wonderful as Alan's harassed wife Beryl, who struggles to keep the peace. And finally, their son Vincent (Toby Ross-Bryant) is a typical moody teenager and there are signs that his relationship with Alan could easily fall into the same category of disagreements similar to his relationship with Brian.
With its generation gap formula and typical domestic setting, Dad could have been the stuff of sitcom nightmare. Indeed what made Marshall's other wonderful family sitcom, 2point4 Children, so unique was its subversion of stereotypical family roles with a head strong mother (Bill) and a father (Ben) while loveable and who genuinely cares for his family, would really crumble without his wife's no nonsense approach to life. In some ways with Alan as a moody father and Beryl far more twee than Belinda Lang's Bill, Dad so easily could have been a step back.
Thankfully, in the hands of Andrew Marshall, the King of Suburban Surrealism, Dad is jetpacked with surreal moments, pathos, and black comedy. What makes the dynamic work is that Brian means well and cares for his family; a welcome change from sitcom characters who have lack depth or reason. The past is a constant discussion point between Alan and Brian, and often explains for why both turned out the way they are. The series also shines a light on care for the elderly without ever becoming preachy or sentimental.
While the plots are, on the whole, less outlandish than 2point4 Children, there are some hysterical moments of slapstick and wonderfully strange ideas. In one brilliant episode, entitled Securidad, Brian gets a job as a security guard for a model village and has to protect its model residents from being attacked by a hamster. Sounding bizzare in description, it works and plays off the generation gap dynamics between Alan and Brian so well. And similarly, there's enough movie and TV homages to make a three course meal with. Another defining trait of the series was each episodes title, bar the Christmas Special, played a pun on the word 'dad.' E.g. Dadism Dadmestic and Dadcoholic.
Perhaps the biggest criticism for the show, is that the character of Vincent was a bit underdeveloped and there could have been more made of the growing generation gap between him and Alan. Of course had there been further series, this element probably would have been addressed.
After two series and one Christmas Special, despite audience figures of up to 7 million, Dad ended and since then has been confined to the sitcom graveyard. It's a shame, because at its best, it's up there with some of the finest sitcoms of the time and compared to contemporary outputs, had more depth and subversion that you simply can't find in sitcoms like Citizen Kahn or Not Going Out. It's time for the show, like 2point4 Children, to be repeated and reassessed.
Published on December 6th, 2018. Review: John Collins (October 2016).