“Cause he gets up in the morning and he goes to work at nine, and he comes back home at five-thirty, gets the same train every time” – the opening title sequence pretty much sums up the eponymous Mr. Sloane.
After losing his job due to an accounting error, things go from bad to worse for Jeremy Sloane (Nick Frost) when his wife, Janet (played by Olivia Colman), leaves him to “find herself”. With no job and no wife, Jeremy’s only other human contact comes from his rather distant friends. Ross (Peter Serafinowicz) is an irresponsible father and gambling addict; Reggie (Brendan Patricks) is a so called ladies’ man and a nasty piece of work; and Beans (Lawry Lewin) is a loyal, kind hearted savant who still lives at home with his mother. Everything changes in Jeremy’s life when he meets Robin (Ophelia Lovibond) in a hardware store, and offers to fix a leaking pipe in her apartment. Robin, a free spirited hippie, helps Jeremy become more outgoing and adventurous.
Nick Frost generally performs well as Mr. Sloane – a benevolent, good-hearted, and somewhat naive man. The issue that I have is with the writing and characterisation of Sloane. One minute he has an abundance of self-confidence like David Brent from the BBC series The Office, and the next, he seems very shy and uncomfortable, like Mark Corrigan from channel 4’s Peep Show. There is however a huge feeling of character growth from episode one to episode six. In episode six, Jeremy finally decides to stand up to his friends through a brilliant cathartic outburst.
The show is widely referred to as a bittersweet comedy, and that’s fine, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of great comedy throughout the series. Occasionally the writing is very clever with the best moments coming from the general pub-talk. However, most of the other jokes are childish, and the show plays too much on fat jokes and toilet humour. It seems to me that Mr. Sloane would’ve worked a lot better if it had focused more on the poignant and bittersweet dramatic moments, rather than juvenile and immature humour. Having said this, the non-linear narrative is structurally sound, with the best feature of the show coming from the poignant flashbacks of Jeremy’s life as a married man and hard-working accountant.
As well as these fantastic flashbacks, the show is set in Watford in 1969, and this gives it room to explore the beauty and glamour of the swinging-sixties. The cinematography is magnificent, adding a real sense of realism to this period comedy-drama. In addition to the beautiful cinematography, the show also deals with some really important themes such as change. This is change in both character and time, as the finale leads up to the imminent arrival of the 1970’s.
In short, Mr. Sloane doesn’t make it as a comedy, but it does flourish as a bittersweet drama. As a series, it could’ve been stronger if it had been structured as a three part mini-series due to the fact that episodes one, five and six provide the best comic moments and dramatic subject matter. If Mr. Sloane is renewed for a second series, then hopefully it can ditch the childish humour and become a superior comedy drama. Mr Sloane definitely has something for everyone, be it 60’s nostalgia, great dramatic moments or even toilet humour – if that’s your thing.