- TV Rating: *****
- BBC 3 and i-player
- November 2016
The second series of Sunny D starring Dane Baptiste featured as part of the Black and British season on BBC3 which commenced last month. The story line is essentially about 29 year old Dane McKenzie (Dane Baptiste) going through “the angst of the quarter-life crisis (didn’t realise that was a thing), family, love and loss.” This is reflected in his feeling of being trapped living with his parents and twin sister Kadean (Gbemisola Ikumelo) with whom he shares a very fractious relationship. Over four 20 minute episodes the viewer watches hilarious scenes from a fraught sibling rivalry. In real life Dane does have a twin sister. How much this is based on their relationship or is just imagined only they and their family will know. Nonetheless it provides for great drama, tension and plenty of belly laughs.
Dane Baptiste’s live stage performances portray a very deadpan sense of humour, which is suitably reflected in this show. His occasional, left of centre sudden burst into song and video replicating great dance tracks and video from the 80’ and 90’s is pure joy and a real blast, all the moreso for being a million miles away from what knows of Dane as a stand up comedian.
Another key relationship is with his girlfriend Nicola (Sasha Frost). Or is she more than just a girlfriend? Though not really the main focus of the sitcom, the girlfriend vs fiancé dilemma was left somewhat hanging during episodes 2 & 3.
There were some unexpected and welcome cameos from Slim as Nicola’s errant father and Don Warrington was superb as Dane’s father. It was great to see Angie Le Mar and Rudi Lickwood featured, though their acting and comedic skills didn’t get much of a look in during their brief appearances in episode 1. Featuring these groundbreaking comedians in the show, broadcast during the Black and British season, in a way the BBC’s alternative ‘Black History Month’, was inspired casting, as it reminded the viewer of some of the stalwarts of the Black comedy scene over the last 20 or so years, upon whose shoulders Dane stands.
The show opened in a TV history theme with the very start of episode 1 mirroring the familiar and much loved opening credits for the Cosby Show. Perhaps Sunny D was making a point that the wholesome family image being sold to us was unrealistic, especially in the light of the lurid allegations that have surfaced against Bill Cosby in recent years. I sense Baptiste was emphasising that his show was going to offer something a lot more down to earth and realistic. After so long without a regular Black sitcom on mainstream TV it would be terrific if this show developed into a long running, quality sitcom. It’s long overdue that’s for sure and I think the story and the characterisation are easily identifiable and watchable. The fact that the cast are predominantly Black does not of itself make it a niche ‘black comedy’ show. It has more in common with the huge, mainstream appeal of ‘The Cosby Show,’ ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ or many British sitcoms for that matter than any culturally niche shows that may exist elsewhere on the internet or TV schedules.
The scenes in episode 1,also felt like an acknowledgement of the Black family unit, with Dane drinking and discussing life with the older men and all the women gathered together in the kitchen baking and chatting away. This is something we don’t see too much of in every day TV drama. What lifted it above the mundane was the fact Dane couldn’t handle his rum and drunkenly went on to deliver a speech and make a statement within that he hadn’t really planned to make, which went on to have repercussions he could have done without in the following episodes!
I loved the scenes with Dane’s boss Kerry, assertively and very convincingly played by comedian Kathryn Ryan. In what some might see as an expression of white supremacy mixed with more than mere attraction to Dane, she was hilarious in her portrayal of the dominating boss consumed by sexual desire. It brought back vivid memories. No, not my own (perish the thought) but of Demi Moore hitting on Michael Douglas in the hit 1994 movie ‘Disclosure’ surely one of the most memorable gender reversal scenes in Hollywood history, as the female boss, Demi Moore, sexually harasses a reluctant Michael (real life sex addict) Douglas.
Episode 3 ended on an Eastenders style cliff hanger involving Kadean. I’m sure many viewers will look forward to seeing what happens in the 4th episode.
McKenzie is the new Mckenzie
McKenzie sitcoms are getting likes buses. In a fascinating co-incidence it was out in the same month that ‘All About the McKenzies’ (AATM) returned to ITV2 for a ‘pilot episode’ despite it having had 3 series out, including one on London Live in 2015! Like buses, you wait for one series about the Mckenzie’s then two come along at once! Whilst the AATM series were pretty good, ironically the “latest” pilot was very disappointing, as were many of the other “comedy” shows ITV2 produced as part of its pre-MOBO’s programming this year and last year. Sunny D and the BBC has shown the way with this series.
Sunny D is an undoubted smash hit. It is an extremely funny, very well written, high energy sitcom of the highest quality. Commenting last December 2015 after getting the news that the show was being commissioned, Dane said: “I’m incredibly happy that Sunny D has been commissioned! It represents the possibility of the mainstream opening the comedy landscape to a new perspective and the resurrection of the Black British sitcom. I grew up watching sitcoms on the BBC, so to have them invest in my own project is an opportunity that I relish and am grateful for.”
Dane is right and one can only hope that this show will be re-commissioned and will open up the door to more opportunities for him and other Black comedians with the talent that deserves an opportunity of being seen by a mainstream TV audience.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
- Sunny D – Episodes 1-4 and further information and clips.
- Black and British – The entire season available on iplayer for a limited period of time.
- All About the Mckenzies ITV2 pilot episode on itv-player – Available to watch until 30th November 2016.
- Dropperz the Pilot – review – 21st November 2016.
- Exclusive reviews of ITV2’s four pre-MOBO 2015 Black and Minority Ethnic shows.