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Sunshine is a three-part drama co-written by Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, the team behind the BBC's hit comedy Early Doors, and co-writers of the BAFTA award-winning The Royle Family. Starring Steve Coogan (I'm Alan Partridge, Saxondale), Bernard Hill (Lord Of The Rings) and Lisa Millett (Drop Dead Gorgeous, Blackpool), Sunshine is the bittersweet story of three generations of the Crosby family.
Orginal Airdate: 7th October 2008
This is the latest series from Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, who wrote BBC2's quietly brilliant Early Doors. Cash also co-wrote (and played Dave in) The Royle Family, so there's pedigree here. You'd expect wry Mancunian wit and warm character comedy - and that's exactly what you get. The story centres on Steve Coogan as Bing, a lovable but hopeless chancer given to joking his way out of trouble. He leads not so much a hand-to-mouth existence as hand-to-bookies, and so spends much of the time in the doghouse with girlfriend Bernadette (beautifully played by Lisa Millett). There's quality support from Bernard Hill as Bing's dad, whose idea of babysitting is to wake his grandson up for an evening of tall stories about how he gave Hitler a Chinese burn. And Cash and Mealey turn up as bin-men. It's gently amusing, with a loving attention to detail, but don't expect belly laughs - it's classed as a comedy drama.
In its effort to be a warm, feel-good story, there are times when Sunshine threatens to drown us in treacle. By the 17th time cute little Joe has his hair tousled by his grandad (Bernard Hill) in another golden scene, you may find you're longing for a bit of an edge to things. In one scene we even hear the Farm's Altogether Now over the two of them gardening, just to ram home what a heart-warmingly marvellous pair they are. But grit your teeth and get through it, because for all its soppiness, Sunshine pays dividends, in the tragicomic tale of Joe's dad Bing (Steve Coogan) and his all-consuming gambling habit. Coogan is excellent again, and in the moving later scenes he reveals a talent for pathos you might not expect. Look out particularly for a sad scene between him and Hill on the top deck of a bus, where both characters are, in classic male fashion, keeping an awful lot hidden.
Tonight, the disaster we know has been coming for a while finally hits the Crosby family. It's hard to do drama as unashamedly soppy as Sunshine. It teeters on the edge of mawkishness in almost every scene. But in the end, it pulls off the double whammy of making us laugh and cry in the course of an hour and leaves us with hearts gently warmed. Having hit rock bottom last week, Bing (Steve Coogan) starts visiting Gamblers Anonymous, much to the relief of his ailing dad George (Bernard Hill). Meanwhile Bing's supernaturally well-behaved son Joe continues to be caught between his estranged mum and dad, and Bernadette ventures out on a date with her boss (Daniel Ryan, quietly brilliant as ever). It's all irretrievably soft-edged and rose-tinted but by the end, strangely satisfying.
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