Man Down, S01E04
by Joshua Gaskell
By Greg Davies
Avalon Television for Channel 4
Friday, 8th November 2013
If Alfie’s pupils in Bad Education comprise the (comedically) luckiest secondary-school class in the country, then Dan’s in Man Down are their primary-school equivalent. If any pupil went from Sandalwood School to Abbey Grove, they would inevitably one day headline Live At the Apollo.
This episode begins with Dan (Greg Davies) being taken aback by an impromptu visit from headmistress Emma Lipsey (Jeany Spark), with a couple of prospective parents in tow. Struggling to recall how a teacher is supposed to behave, Dan asks the class, ‘So, where were we with the lesson?’ Referring to their only subject of study (a sci-fi serial of Dan’s own improvised invention called Space Mission), one pupil helpfully pipes up, ‘Dennis reckoned he could kick an alien’s nut-sack off, sir.’ Alarmed, Dan reassures Lipsey and the parents, ‘We don’t talk about things like that in here.’ But the class’s twice-shod goody (who performs the same function as Jing in Bad Education) dobs him in: ‘Oh, we do. Often.’*
After the title sequence (unusual in being pretty funny in its own right) we’re in the caff, which is run by Shakira (Ashley McGuire) and Bob (who, like Margaret in Little Britain’s pirate memory game sketches, is called to but never seen). Here the main plot is introduced: Dan’s friend Brian (brilliantly played by Mike Wozniak, with a moustache to rival Steven Toast’s) has been going ‘jog-dogging’ (Dan’s phrase) with a running guru called Dominic, and Dan decides to go along. Back at home he tells his parents (Rik Mayall and Gwyneth Powell) of his plan, and their uproarious laughter is prolepsis for our own on seeing Davies appear the following morning in his ludicrously tight jogging getup.
‘You look dreadful. Why are you wearing slippers?’
Dominic (Ramon Tikaram), it turns out, also bears a passing resemblance (personality-wise) to a Little Britain character – Denver Mills – but is a veteran of Seoul ’88 rather than Los Angeles ’84. And, unusually, his most prominent attribute gives this episode a mild surrealism more common in sketch-shows like Little Britain than sitcoms: he has a non-naturalistically enormous arse. He is bootylicious, or, in Dan’s words, ‘he looks like a centaur’ or ‘a human baboon’. And his best line, uttered whilst handing out cranberry juice, is ‘In Seoul we drank so much of this we pissed crimson.’ At school English lessons I remember being told not to point out an example of assonance unless you are going to explain its significance. But surely writers mostly use assonance simply because phrases like ‘pissed crimson’ are pleasing on the ear.
As well as having a baboonish caboose, we soon learn that Dominic possesses a ‘secret […] so powerful he can only tell one man at a time.’ Impressed by his accurate jap-slaps, Dan decides he wants to learn the secret, and, through pity-points, bags the necessary one-on-one. The two of them go to Dominic’s house and, after a very funny sequence in which the guru inadvertently knocks over his own ornaments, he hypnotises Dan into a supposed state of ‘ultimate control’.
‘None of these ornaments are more than a week old.’
Ultimate control is precisely what a sitcom lead cannot hold on to (Man Up would be a reality show, not a comedy), so after a couple of look-into-my-eyes triumphs, Dan comes crashing back to earth in a fine dénouement: round at Naomi’s house (his ex, played by Deirdre Mullins) he tells her ‘we’re gonna be OK […] I’m cured.’ ‘I’m seeing someone,’ she replies. To which Dan responds by pulling his own finger and emitting a long, squelching fart. If only it were wind he were breaking, but this is total loss of control; main-event peripeteia:
I have shat myself. Apologies. I have had an awful lot of cranberry. And I’m very tired.
* You’d think she of all people would know that the ‘T’ ought to be silent.