Being of a social work background myself, I must confess to a chuckle as I listen to these amusing tales of casework and core assessments. Obviously this is a gentle take on the whole business of social care but nonetheless it does present delightful little vignettes which in a reasonably accurate manner, portray some aspects of the light-hearted side of this business. A little stereotyped perhaps but the writers can fairly lay claim to a knowledge of the subject although care is taken to ensure the humour is sufficiently generalised to comfortably engage a lay audience. All in all a good hoot which should keep those in the know as well as those outside quietly chortling.
Sally Phillips should be heralded as some form of national heroine yet sadly she doesn't really seem to get the kind of positive press on a large scale that other, less talented, artists get.
Claire in the Community is perhaps not her finest hour but is a gently funny look at the life of social worker Clare and whilst it perhaps lacks that little spark that would really set it apart from the chasing pack, it remains the kind of show that can easily help you to pass half an hour of your day.
Clare in the Community is one of those sitcoms that doesn't break any new ground, doesn't deviate much from stereotypes and popular prejudices and isn't an essential listen by any means, but which is surprisingly enjoyable all the same. Clare's the classic social worker stereotype, self-important, self-obsessed, somewhat hypocritical in her quest to save the world from itself and completely insensitive to the feelings of those who should be closest to her, in particular her partner. Series Four sees their relationship in crisis - this is, after all, a comedy soap opera - co-workers coming out of the closet and last minute Valentine's Day restaurant bookings ending in a botched police raid and a shooting (well, if you will leave it so late that the only place you can get a table is run by ex-offenders) before ending on a big cliffhanger, and while it occasionally skirts a little close to the borders of incredulity, it provides more than enough laughs to reward he casual listener as well as the devoted fan. Much of the credit for that goes to a well-cast ensemble of co-workers who are varied enough to compensate for the fact that Clare tends to be a bit of a one-note two-joke character. It won't change your life or improve your standard of living, but it's a very pleasant diversion for a few hours. Better than the three-star rating implies, but Amazon don't offer the option to offer the three-and-a-half stars that this more properly deserves.
I'd never heard of Clare in the Community before I received this CD set so I was set for a journey into BBC Audio unknown. I like Sally Phillips and have always found that anything she is in is funny. This did not disappoint though I feel that those who have followed Clare in her previous outings on radio will have a better knowledge of her character and past escapades.
The episodes in this series are
1. Mother of all Mothers: Clare's mummy comes to stay - not helpful when Clare and Brian are trying for a baby.
2. A Game of Two Slavs: A relationship counsellor suggests that Clare and Brian try to share their interests with each other.
3. And the Winner Is: Clare dreams of winning the "Social Worker of the Year" award.
4. Carry On Up The Amazon: Helen misses her son, Gareth who is supposed to be travelling on his gap year except Clare finds out he hasn't gotten too far!
5. My Funny Valentine: Clare has promised Brian she has booked a table at a restaurant for Valentine's Day. The only problem is she hasn't!
6. The Long Goodbye: Brian has a life-altering experience when a bullet grazes his head and he contemplates his future.
Not having previously come across this series, I chose it on the strength of the actors in it. In particular for the title role of Claire. I wasn't disappointed, the audio acting is excellent and eases you into the series without much effort of having to work out the relationships and previous series knowledge doesn't seem to be hugely required. I am sure fans won't be disappointed, I certainly wasn't as a newcomer, and would welcome discovering the back catalogue.
I am a self confessed sic-fi and thrillers geek, so I am the first to admit I wouldn't normally go for the sitcom style audio play, but this comedy is interesting and made me chuckle a lot with sharply written and delivered dialogue, seen from point of view of people serving the community, and makes a refreshing change from a lot of other audio plays which are often centred around sci-fi or crime novels.
Warmly Recommended to fans and newcomers alike
Although I've not yet finished listening to this, it has already had me giggling with some entertaining episodes - and, in ways, I look forwards to hearing the rest. However, parts of it are very silly, and sections have had me getting irritated as the 'humour' is taken to what I consider to be ridiculous and rather puerile extremes. What a shame!
Radio Four can produced some excellent comedy programmes and equally, in my opinion, some awful ones. Having recently reviewed a set of CDs representing the latter it was a delight to listen to Clair in the Community which falls in to the former category. I hadn't come across this Social-Worker based comedy before despite there being three earlier series. I'll certainly look the others out.
The programme is well written and features the stereotypical characters that work well in situation comedies. The PC world of Social Work is also well chosen as a setting for this genre. The acting is good and the script comes close to laughing out loud quality. It's a delight to come across Bridget Forsyth as Clair's dysfunctional mother.
Overall I'd recommend this series to all who enjoy slightly more traditional radio comedy.
Having never even heard of this radio show, but being a Sally Phillips fan I was very eager to try this and was worried having not heard the first 3 series's and thought it may be difficult to follow, but I immediately warmed to the characters and laughed my way through the whole series, found I'd listen to the whole thing in one go and play it most days in my car!! I now own the other series's and can't believe i'd never heard of it before! Lot's of laughs and great for all the family, even my children love it!
Highly recommended if you've never heard of it, it's a ligh hearted funny series and obviously recommend the other series too, brilliant!
"Clare In The Community" swings at will between being a quite cutting workplace satire worthy of Radio 4, and a run-of-the-mill predictable sit-com not worthy of ITV2. Among some laugh-out-loud moments are some gags which you can see coming not just a mile off, but several miles off.
Clare is a rather neurotic social worker, more concerned with self-promotion than with the people in her care. As a character she's just on the verge of likeable, which is fine for laughs but brings down the whole rom-com element of her relationship with Brian, a relationship which you can't help feeling would be better off abandoned- which rather takes away from the whole 'drama' that progresses through the series.
The supporting characters are rather one-dimensional. Ray the only gay social worker in the office, Megan the naive soft-in-the-head Scot, Helen the would-be team leader, and so on, could all be accused of being stereotypes. Of these, only Megan really gets rounded out as a worthwhile and enjoyable character.
Too many of the jokes follow the same format. For example the classic radio gag of cutting to Brian, a teacher, who is apparently telling a schoolboy off for bad behaviour- then the comic reveal that he is in fact talking to the headmaster, not to a child. Hmmm. The cast is so strong, especially Sally Phillips who is a brilliant comic performer, that it all seems a bit of a waste.
HOWEVER, all these criticisms said, there are a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, particularly when the jokes get a little bit edgier ("it's not enough that she's black, she has to be a lesbian too!") so I've got to be honest and give it at least some stars.
Overall though, not up to BBC Radio 4's usual high comedy standards.
This is a spot-on comedy, being a mixture of social work, care, and relationships. Whilst Clare tries to do her social work in a responsible way, you can see the office politics at work, which is true of many offices in other fields. She really doesn't seem to be able to manage her human relationships with people outside the office, especially her own boyfriend, who appears somewhat neglected.
Her efforts to win the excellent employee award show her shallowness, it is interesting to see how people in the caring profession are willing to use eachother so openly. The writers claim that they have inside sources, and I can believe it. I work in a school, and sometimes you encounter social workers in the context of pupil care and protection. It's enough to destroy your faith in people.
But to cut to the chase, this is a very clever series, possibly up there as the social workers' "Yes Minister" in terms of accuracy and being true to itself. The bizarre restaurant episode is very good, and reminds me of many other surreal comedies which I have heard over the years. I am not sure that I would agree with some other reviewers here as to exactly which influences are strongest, but if you know your comedy, you'll find them.
It isn't entirely subtle, and I cannot say how it compares to earlier series, but I can say that I liked it, and I would keep my eyes out for the next series. There are lots of continuing plot elements left hanging to make you want for more. Clare's reaction in the cliff-hanger finale seems typical of what you'd expect, but you won't be expecting it when it happens.