Pretty much ever since it first aired, I've counted Joking Apart as one of the top five British sit-coms ever, but that claim has to be seen in the context of some of its weaknesses. Unlike One Foot In The Grave or Spaced, for example, Joking Apart is not perfectly made, and is not perfectly cast. The studio audience is often slow to get the jokes, meaning that there is an odd creakiness about the episodes. Robert Bathurst, whose character holds up the entire series and gets most of the dialogue, never quite persuades us that he is a bitter, sarcastic stand-up comedian. In the light of its flaws, you might wonder whether this sit-com is even good, let alone great.
What elevates Joking Apart into the first rank is the scriptwriting from Steven Moffat whose brilliance (here as with the later Coupling) shines through the flaws in execution. No one writes farce like Moffat, whose complex, improbable situations build from careful, logical setups to pay-offs more ingeniously constructed than a classic whodunit. Along the way, the dialogue is razor sharp and bears comparison with some of the better US comedies.
The BBC never knew what it had with Joking Apart and still don't: this DVD was meticulously prepared by an independent company and even has commentaries on four of the episodes. Fans of the series tend to be protective of it, knowing that there are things here that have probably never been bettered by any other sitcom. Not everyone will see past the admitted problems, this DVD provides a second chance to catch one of the neglected gems of British television.