The second episode of The Job Lot took quite a step backwards in quality in comparison to the first. Episode one set up a lot of interesting elements, introduced some funny and intriguing characters and suggested a series which could be fun to watch. Episode two really didn’t live up to that promise and was filled with tired sitcom set-ups. I still think there’s enough in the show for the series as a whole to be enjoyable and worth watching, but I’m hoping this episode is just a misstep.
Episode two had no real focus and felt aimless. Karl is presumably the protagonist in the series but he wasn’t involved in much of this week’s plot, which concerned an army recruiter visiting the jobcentre, and Trish’s attempts to ask him out. It was a really weak premise to base an episode around. TV shows do often have small plot points to anchor an episode, but usually there is an overarching series plot and defined character arcs to give it some bite. The Job Lot doesn’t have anything like that yet, and this episode didn’t hint at anything to come beyond what was introduced in the first programme.
There were also some annoyingly overused sitcom tropes. As soon as Danielle suggested Trish use the hand-dryer on her hair I groaned in anticipation of the inevitable scene to follow. The security guard competing with the soldier and Karl’s awed reaction to the sergeant were also lazy clichés. And while a really funny show can absorb such weak elements, episode two of The Job Lot was lacking in any funny moments that raised more than a smile. At one point, they did the same joke twice; the jobseeker talking about the army until it’s revealed that he’s actually talking about a film, and then Karl talking about the army, until it’s revealed that he’s actually talking about Call of Duty.
A lot of what I liked about the first episode just wasn’t evident here. There wasn’t anything about Karl’s underachieving and his frustrated personality – a graduate in a dead end job – and little about the maddening bureaucracy of the jobcentre. Only the few scenes of the job-seeking estate agent stood out amongst the standard sitcom fare and whacky hijacks.
There were small character elements in episode one I enjoyed, like Karl’s box of biscuits or Angela cutting-up some cheese with scissors, but the second episode eschewed these types of things in favour of broad comedy. Karl’s very sitcom-like reaction to the army sergeant this episode wasn’t really consistent with the more grounded character shown in the first episode.
It’s been argued that The Job Lot is full of stereotypes – by Private Eye’s TV reviewer to name one; by someone in the comments of my last review to name another – and while I still hold out hope that the show is better than this, the sitcom clichés in this episode don’t fill me with confidence. Neither does the football match shown at the episode’s end, between an unnamed, generic Team Blue and some other team. Why not just make it Everton or something? It’s like a computer wrote that scene, complete with a formulaic comedy punchline when the jobseeker showed up as the barman. The dialogue throughout the episode about ‘the football’ was embarrassing at times; it was like one of those bad TV adverts that show nondescript football supporters because the company are scared of alienating any viewers.
I do think that the show can improve though. There is, for instance, a lot of talent amongst the actors. Russell Tovey is more than capable of playing the unhappy everyman and Adeel Akhtar, introduced this episode as the benefit fraud detective, was outstanding in Utopia and Four Lions. I highlight those two, but there are plenty of fine actors in The Job Lot. And as I wrote last week, I think the characters are well constructed and funny creations, and there is the potential for some depth in the show. If that potential is to be realised, then next week’s episode really needs to follow through on some of episode one’s early promise.
- ‘It says here you’ve worked in a pub.’ ‘Yes; in 1983.’ ‘Well could you go back there; see if your old position is still available?’ ‘I doubt it; it’s a Chinese restaurant now.’ ‘Well, have they got a bar?’
- ‘I got an interview in a posh restaurant last week by pretending I was Ainsley Harriott.’ ‘Did that work?’ ‘No. When I got there they realised I wasn’t really Ainsley Harriott. And some people did find my outfit a little racist.’
- ‘How much further.’ ‘12 clicks.’ ‘That’s about seven miles Karl.’ ‘I mean metres. What’s army for metres?’ ‘Metres.’
- ‘This is actually quite exciting when you think about it. Handsome soldier, hiding out, the promise of romance. I feel like a saucy Anne Frank.’
- ‘He’s chemically enhanced.’ ‘He’s got to be; he’s barely touched his lunch.’