The romantic comedy may be dead on the big screen, but … it’s also mostly dead on the small screen. It feels like the closest we get to romance on a comedy these days is Janine and Gregory on Abbott Elementary. However, there have been two new entries into the television genre of late, both from foreign territories, both with quirky premises, and both starring an actor at least vaguely familiar to American audiences.
The first is Apple TV+’s recently completed Still Up, a British comedy that stars Craig Roberts as Danny, an agoraphobic journalist with insomnia, and Lisa (Antonia Thomas), an outgoing, free-spirited aspiring illustrator who also can’t get her winks in. The two bond over their inability to sleep and, over the course of eight episodes, keep each other company over the phone during the long nights. As one might imagine, they develop their own chemistry via meaningful late-night chats.
I liked Roberts in an early Prime Video streaming series called Red Oaks that ran for three seasons, and that no one saw — he reminds me of Asa Butterfield (Sex Education), whose attraction lies mostly in his personality. I’m apparently drawn to nervous, stuttering Lloyd Dobbler types. However, while Still Up has a promising first few episodes, Antonio Thomas’s (The Misfits, Love Sick) Lisa is so much more lively and charming than Danny that she overwhelms him. By the end, it’s hard to understand how she is with her existing boyfriend, Veggie (Blake Harrison), or why she’d be attracted to Danny at all — he is kind of a dud.
The series has a few genuinely funny moments, mostly involving Danny’s humiliating dating life, which takes place exclusively in his apartment, but there’s little spark between the two leads. It doesn’t help that much of the action takes place over the phone. Lisa, at times, is sparkly enough to keep things entertaining, but even she cannot keep Still Up lively and entertaining enough to outlast its eight-half-hour episode runtime (or two hours). It’d have been better as a mediocre movie instead of a mediocre television series broken into eight episodes.
The two leads in Colin from Accounts, an Australian import now streaming on Paramount+, do not suffer from a lack of chemistry. They’re played by real-life husband and wife Patrick Brammall and Harriet Dyer, the latter of whom American audiences may recognize from the short-lived American Auto. She is terrific. The worst thing about Colin from Accounts is its premise, but the best thing about Colin from Accounts is everything else.
The premise is this: While Gordon (Brammall) is sitting in traffic, Ashley (Dyer), walks by and playfully flashes him — a stranger — because she’s feeling randy. A distracted Gordon runs over a dog (that they later amusingly name Colin from Accounts), and the two are forced to live together to take care of the ailing but adorable pup. Dyer, a medical student, can’t have dogs in her flat, and Gordon works too much (as a pub owner) to take care of the dog himself, so the dog is the excuse for the forced cohabitation of strangers.
There are some terrific gross-out gags in Colin — a sleepwalking Ashley pees in Gordon’s drawers in the first episode — but it gets by mostly on great writing (from Brammall and Dyer) and the charms of married couple, whose chemistry — even as “friends” — is off the charts. They are fucking funny together.
As someone who watches television for a living, I dislike it when any show drops all its episodes at once because I don’t have the time, but I would have made an exception for Colin from Accounts. I’d have been ready to devote three straight days to watching these two bounce off each other. It’s the superior rom-com, and it’s not even close. If you’re into a show like Catastrophe or This Way Up, Colin from Accounts will be right up your alley.