The Complete Second Series

Starring: Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson
VCI/Channel 4 Video
RRP 14.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

These are the continuing voyages of the confused twenty-somethings Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner. Together with their odd assortment of friends, they tackle the big questions that the 21st century poses: who are they; what do they mean to each other; and was The Phantom Menace really all that bad...?

Though not strictly sci-fi, this seven-episode series contains enough genre references to keep any telefantasy fan happy throughout its 173-minute running time. The highlights include a Matrix pastiche in Episode One, a Sixth Sense spoof in the fourth episode, and the hilarious reasons why Tim (Simon Pegg) gets fired from two separate comic shops during Episode Two. As in the first series, allusions to the Star Wars saga abound, this time accompanied by genuine excerpts from John Williams' music.

As well as the main stars (also the writers) of the show, Pegg and Stevenson, the wonderful cast also includes Nick Frost as war-obsessed Territorial Army member Mike, Mark (Big Train, Stressed Eric) Heap as tormented artist Brian, Katy Carmichael as his shallow girlfriend Twist, and the splendidly seedy Julia Deakin as Tim and Daisy's alcoholic landlady Marsha. Watch out also for guest appearances by Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith (from The League of Gentlemen), Kevin Eldon (Big Train, Good Morning with Richard Not Judy) and a pre-The Office Ricky Gervais.

The madcap exploits of the first five episodes - including bitter rivalry between Robot Wars contestants and a frenzied race against time to retrieve a piece of incriminating comic art - give way to true dramatic tension in the final two instalments. Thanks in no small part to a sympathetic performance by Deakin as the betrayed Marsha, the concluding two-parter generates real emotional intensity, whilst managing to remain very amusing indeed.

This surreal and silly sitcom will appeal most of all to children of the '80s, who will recall from their schooldays exactly what "Joey" means as a term of abuse (hint: it's nothing to do with Friends). Don't let the word "sitcom" put you off - this slick series is seriously funny, with a way-cool soundtrack to boot.

As Tyres (Michael Smiley) would say: "You lucky people!"

Richard McGinlay

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