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on 10 October 2009
Series 5 saw a bit of a dip in quality in my view. I thought that maybe the format was tired or perhaps the apparent conclusion of the Mark and Sophie relationship signalled the end. Thankfully, series 6 has blown the cobwebs to smithereens in three ways:
Firstly, they've remembered what brought series 2 and 3 alive - new principal characters, in particular Elena, the friendly neighbourhood drug dealing bisexual Russian brings a whole new dynamic to the show, bewitching both Jeremy and the viewer.
Secondly, whilst the Mark-Jez relationship remains firmly stuck in first-day-at-infant school gear, many of the individual characters are allowed to break free of previous conventions and rules: With JLB blowing up, Mark flirts with what he might be, instead of railing against what he has become; Johnson's manic drive finally spills over into something a little darker, and even Jez plays against type by occasionally caring for others' feelings after sweetly falling in love.
Finally, the jokes are relentless. Sight gags, set-up and pay-off gags, embarrassment and recognition stuff - this we kind of take for granted. But the use of language - and in particular the A level command of swearing - is just on a different level here to previous offerings.
The series sparkles with the sense of writers and performers really enjoying themselves. I love that the main supporting characters (Sophie, Dobbie, Big Suze, Superhans, Johnson) appear only intermittently - and only then where a major plot development justifies their involvement - series 5 seemed overburdened by a need to update us on Sophie's decline for instance. In summary, a fantastic series, some great performances and still the most true-to-life realisation of the horrible awkwardness of what it's like to have to pretend to be a grown-up.