Roisin Conaty has spent the last 8 years going from the bottom of the stand up rung to earning recurring roles in TV sitcoms and regular spots on virtually every panel show going. Her latest venture has been a similarly long slog - GAMEFACE originally emerged as an E4 pilot in 2014.
Gameface was picked up for a full season the year after, but has rather oddly, taken another couple of years to make it to air. This may help explain why the first episode of the series is a reboot rather than a continuation of the original 2014 pilot.
The core idea (woman persistently tries to get her life back on track even as she repeatedly veers out of control despite her best efforts) still shares DNA with the original pilot, but emerges from its two-year hiatus as a much more refined beast.
We meet Marcella (Conaty) passed out at a children’s birthday party in a scene that feels a little “been there, done that” for a female fronted sitcom about a single woman in her 30s. We rapidly learn that Marcella is an aspiring actress who earns a living as a temp and is recovering from a break up. So far, so ho hum. Happily, it’s all uphill from there.
True, Marcella is a woman in complete disarray - in the course of a 20 minute episode, she gets mistaken for a suicidal employee, Instagram stalks her ex, gets fired and manages to hook up with the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen Friends. To describe her as a hot mess would be an understatement of monumental proportions.
However, with every gaffe it becomes a little clearer that GameFace is a cut above the average comedian-turned-actor vanity vehicle (ever seen an episode of Josh? No? Just as well really...). GameFace dabbles in cringe comedy, but also bestows some eminently quotable lines (“It tastes like ISIS!”).
E4 have clearly invested in the production, as Marcella’s surprisingly elaborate daydreams play out. Layering up her personality and backstory through throwaway comments and flashbacks, GameFace shows a sly cleverness that never gets in your face. There’s even a moment of genuine finesse as Fleetwood Mac plays out over a comically fraught night scene, which would look just as at home on the big screen.
It remains to be seen whether the rest of the GameFace cast will receive the same treatment. As well as two housemates who are clearly more pulled together than than our heroine, there’s a wan faced ex, a po-faced life coach and a potential new love interest, but none of them get much more than a brief introductory scene or two.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of GameFace will hinge on whether you empathise with Marcella’s irresponsible, self-involved persona. She certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or bottle of Lambrini) but beneath the layers of denial and narcissism, Marcella’s bold-faced brashness contains a sliver of the person we sometimes wish we were. For the first time in a while, I’m actually looking forward to tucking in to Episode 2 of a British sitcom.
- Aired on E4, October 12 2017 at 21:00.