No A* for Sky’s new comedy ‘Gates’
The school run becomes just that as a loving father tries desperately to avoid a mish-mash of eccentric characters on delivering his daughter to school in this patchy new sitcom.
Any new show needs time to settle in, introduce the characters etc and Gates is no different. However, with a run time of around 26 minutes and a lot of characters to get through in that time scale, it did seem very hurried and relied a little too much on stereotypes in order to really get across some of the more unusual personalities. You could say that the feverish nature of the show does reflect the flurry of activity involved in early mornings, getting children ready for school and rushing to get in and out of the playground as quickly as possible and get to work – such is the nature of our busy lifestyles. Indeed the first few minutes of the show followed the almost military precision in which Helen (Joanna Page) described to her husband Mark (Tom Ellis) her strategy of dropping off their daughter Chloe at school without being volunteered for anything or inadvertently inviting all of the parents for a party back at the house (tasks at which Mark failed on both counts).
To be honest, when the show was first announced I envisaged some sort of meeting of various characters at the school gates and perhaps the discussion of their lives in a sort of chatty and witty way – amusing banter being the main focus of the show but it has turned out to be somewhat different to my expectations. Regardless of my thoughts beforehand, I watched the episode fresh and found it to be pleasant enough but I only laughed sporadically and found some of the characters a little irksome at first – hopefully they will grow on me as the weeks go by.
The first episode focussed mainly on Mark’s inability to really grasp what was expected of him in terms of homework, costumes to be created for each day at school (meaning that his daughter turned up inadequately dressed for the occasion more than once) and how far he should go to impress everyone. A typical people pleaser who appears unable to just say no to the parents and teachers, I suspect this will lead Mark into a great many scrapes throughout the series. There were some real star turns such as Sue Johnston as the acerbic hungover Miss Hunter (who wasn’t the only hungover teacher on tonight’s TV schedule) and Tony Gardner as the deliciously smarmy Aiden. Other characters of note are the fabulously intense, unstable Sarah who seems to work innuendo into every conversation she has with Mark, a young but eager to impress and desperate to be cool headteacher, and the cheerfully pushy Mia, an Australian lady with bags of enthusiasm who seems to sweep everyone along with her plans. The headteacher’s efforts to get everyone involved in ‘School and Home Partnership Workshop Week’ culminated in a JCB traversing the playground, the unveiling of a surprising piece of art and the astonishment of an Ofsted representative – all of which was gently humorous.
With a star studded cast I expected a little more comedy but as I mentioned before, perhaps the show will strengthen over the weeks once we have gotten to know each of the characters and the intricacies of the politics. Until then I can say that while I enjoyed the first episode of Gates, I wouldn’t be hurrying to give it an A+. Maybe it will be top of the class next week.