On the surface, LET'S GET PHYSICAL has a lot going for it - it’s a new US sitcom. (yes, I think that’s a good thing) It’s just arrived on E4 (the channel that brings us everything from The Big Bang Theory to Brooklyn 99)
The show brings an attention grabbing daft premise, that promises more of the gloriously retro kitsch that makes The Goldbergs such a treat.
Alas, any resemblance to The Goldbergs is fleeting, beginning and ending with a nostalgic voiceover from Joe Force, our guide through the spandex clad world of competitive aerobics (which some cursory Googling confirms is a real thing).
Joe (Matt Jones) recounts his epic failure at the National Aerobics Championship as a teenager as grainy VHS footage documents his abject humiliation at the hands of his teenage nemesis and subsequent rejection by his fitness fanatic dad. Fast forward umpteen years and Joe is a struggling singer estranged from his family, forced back into Lycra one last time if he’s to have any hope of bagging his $8m inheritance.
Jane Seymour turns up early as Joe’s mum, which turns out to be the most exciting thing to happen in the first 15 minutes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, enforced competitive aerobics turns out to be a pretty thin premise for a single 20 minute TV episode, let alone the eight episodes commissioned for this first run.
As a central character, Joe inspires indifference (at best), dwarfed in the personality stakes by his obnoxious but far more entertaining nemesis Barry Cross (Chris Diamantopoulos in the sort of role at which he excels). Cross is a fitness freak whose chain of body fascist gyms, which will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever done a workout with the sole purpose of burning off enough calories to eat doughnuts later.
Proclaiming “Our bodies are temples and treated as such” - Cross prompts Joe to deliver perhaps his only funny line of the whole show, “My body's a dive bar - everyone’s having fun and much better stories”. That marks the show’s highpoints, because despite his vow to defeat Barry and his ex-girlfriend, Joe’s lazy do-nothing is hard to warm to.
In fact, our hero is such a characterless vacuum - he even makes it hard to dislike Barry Cross’ gym zealot and all the 1%ers (by which I mean people with 1% body fat) he represents. Even Joe’s inability to get over his high school sweetheart, who naturally dumped Joe for his toned arch nemesis, is more pathetic than sympathetic.
Rather like its schlubby hero - Let’s Get Physical fails to grab the attention, lacking both originality and warmth, not to mention any genuinely likeable characters. With a wispy narrative that hopscotches all over the place, the pilot episode never really settles and point blank refuses to grab the attention despite its best efforts. Perhaps I’ll summon up the energy to sit through one more episode, but more likely I’ll just go back to sleep on the sofa and hope it’s all over by the time I wake up.
- Aired on E4, May 3 2018.