The Smoking Room (BBC3, 2004-2005)
Time for another review then of a comedy DVD that I have. I was never really a big fan of comedy on BBC3, but there was the occasional gem, including Ideal and Swiss Toni which I really liked, and there was also The Smoking Room. This was a sitcom with a rather basic idea but it was much enhanced by having some good moments played out by a cast full of good comic actors. It was written by Brian Dooley who in 2005 received a Bafta for his work on the show, and the theme music was “Close To Me” by The Cure.
Room B209 is the designated and rather drab room where people come to have a smoke, and this is where the whole of the show is set. It is never really made entirely clear where these people work or what they do because there is a rule in the room that they don’t “talk shop”. The cast included the likes of Robert Webb (presumably having a day off from Peep Show), Paula Wilcox and Siobhan Redmond, and there were also one-off appearances from Mathew Horne and Dave Lamb.
There were about a dozen regular characters in The Smoking Room, and the most memorable ones included Robin, who seemed to spend just about his whole time in the room, Barry, who only ever seemed to go there so he could have some time to do the crossword, the somewhat bossy Sharon and her assistant Janet, and the horribly grumpy Len.
17 episodes were made altogether, and although they all had good moments, there are a few that I particularly enjoyed. Firstly, there was an episode where Robin finds a box which has pictures in it of staff members that were taken in 1987, and among other things we see a picture of Barry with red-rimmed glasses and a mullet, and old-fashioned things like that always make me laugh.
There was another episode devoted to everyone in the room attending a seminar where they are encouraged to quit smoking by an overly cheery man dressed as a cigarette, and Barry says beforehand if he starts to talk about things like the illnesses that smoking can cause that he doesn’t want to hear about, he’ll just blot it out by going through the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his head, leading to him at a random point in the episode just shouting out “Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the fandango?” and the look on the interrupted seminar host’s face is terrific.
There was also another good one where it was April Fool’s Day so everybody played increasingly horrible pranks on one another, and there was also a tense moment when Gordon almost had a heart attack. It would have been good to see The Smoking Room continue to develop, but unfortunately there wasn’t a third series, but it couldn’t be helped. Just after the second series, there were increased restrictions on smoking in public, meaning that there would no longer be smoking rooms in workplaces, and this rendered the situation redundant.