“Hebburn’s where dreams come to die”
Hebburn is the creation of stand up comedian Jason Cook, who does make a cameo style appearance in the series in the form of an old drinking friend called Ramsey. The first episode sees Manchester journalist Jack Pearson (Chris Ramsey) take Sarah, a Jewish PhD student (Kimberley Nixon) home to meet his clan in Hebburn, the couple have just married in Las Vegas, however the family think she is merely his new girlfriend.
Based on his own upbringing and experiences in the North East he has created a myriad of familiar local caricatures we can identify with, Big Keith, was walking around in his vest. It was because his shirt was in the wash. Not his best shirt, you see; his shirt. Trying to prove that every town has its cast of token characters, including salt of the earth elders, local oddballs and tarts with hearts; it’s just that the parameters of class, language and customs can differ geographically.
Starting off, the dialogue between Jack and Sarah seemed like a bit of a well-planned stand-up routine, perhaps getting these comedy gems out early was to grasp the audience’s attention and settle them in to the general vibe of the show. We journalists also got an early dig in the ribs “Are you a journalist like our Jack or do you have a proper job?” I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of the journalism jibes, but that is fair game in my opinion. It took a while for the mirth punches to settle down into a steady flow of storytelling and create a seemingly organic and observational kitchen sink style farce. They are a typical over bearing lot, but they are warm, eager to please and impress, which is quite endearing.
A strong cast is led by an understated Jim Moir (aka Mr Vic Reeves) as Joe; Jack’s father and the supremely talented Gina McKee plays his Mam Pauline. Finishing the Pearson line-up is Lisa McGrillis as sister Vicki and Pat Dunn as Dot, the wheelchair bound and inappropriately mouthed Granny. You cannot fault the acting calibre, and you do soon forget Jim Moir’s usual alter ego shenanigans. I enjoyed seeing this transition, as much as I adore Vic Reeves and everything he’s done, Hebburn really is Jim Moir’s territory.
We have a long way to go yet, but I admire Jason Cook for his boldness, it is about time we saw new writers emerge with what they know best. From my own experiences with his comedy Jason Cook is a supremely funny and down to earth guy, Hebburn won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and not everyone will identify with the premise. Yes they are Geordies, and fellow Geordies will get the joke, but it is by far not self-indulgent.
First episodes are always tricky affairs, and of course crucial to the success of a series; establishing characters, setting and tempo. The format for BBC Two’s Hebburn is far from original, a comedy about a family, this time set in a Tyneside town, pet. Giving us a hearty mix of rough diamonds somewhere between The Royal Family, Shameless and Rab C. Nesbitt, Hebburn shows comedic promise, with a little bawdy smut to wash it all down.
I urge you to watch, we are in for a bumpy ride.