The first episode of BBC Two’s latest Australian import Colin from Accounts began with a jolt, much like its protagonist’s morning drive. When Ashley (Harriet Dyer) flashed Gordon (Patrick Brammall) at a crossing, distracting him and causing his car to run over an apparently ownerless dog, the pair found themselves bound together in the aftermath of the accident. What a meet-cute.
Establishing its characters and their world with clarity and humanity, Colin from Accounts sets up a solid story while making good on its promise of comedy. Australian humour has a long history of translating cleanly to British audiences – from Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High to the inimitable Kath and Kim – and this sitcom’s jokes landed quietly and confidently, part of the dialogue rather than overwritten gags crowbarred into the story.
The vet they took the dog to was an embittered ex of Gordon’s who revelled in describing the “best-case” scenario: “He’ll be a high-needs dog. You may need to manually express his bladder and bowels.” Ashley decided at the last minute that she couldn’t bear to have their new friend put down. With Gordon fronting the vet bills to save its life – “$12,000?” – she promised to pay him back. “I’ll do a GoFundMe or something,” she said.
Owed a small fortune by a near-stranger, Gordon held fast to Ashley. But his motivations weren’t only financial. “Dream scenario, it dies peacefully and karma’s good to me,” he said to a colleague. Clearly, he hoped his generosity might stand him in a good stead romantically.
Medical student Ashley, meanwhile, wasn’t dealing well with her recent break-up from a dashing doctor. As the episode continued, it became clear that flashing Gordon was part of a wider pattern of her erratic behaviour.
Rich, nuanced lines were mixed with no-nonsense giggles. As Ashley and Gordon waited for news of the dog’s health in a café next door to the vet, the manager took a phone call before addressing them sombrely. “I’m so sorry guys, he didn’t make it.” When it emerged he’d got the wrong customers, he sparked a wave of wailing around the café as table after table interpreted the message as being about their own pet.
The dog survived its surgery, but when a snooty estate agent made it clear that Ashley couldn’t look after the pet at home as she had planned, she had no choice but to head to Gordon’s house. Clearly, their entanglement was only just beginning – though it still wasn’t clear what its true nature would be.
With married couple Dyer and Brammall not only starring in but developing the show, Colin from Accounts’ leading characters felt authentically three-dimensional, their chemistry believably ambiguous. Both were likeable, all the more so for their flaws – “How long have you been single?” asked Ashley with a raised eyebrow upon seeing a unicycle in Gordon’s house. Later, she whipped a bottle from her handbag: “Do you want a shot of tequila?”
Toasting their new pet and deciding “he needs a human name”, Ashley suggested Colin. “Colin from Accounts Payable!” agreed Gordon.
Charming, compelling, and comedically convincing to boot, the first episode of Colin from Accounts not only sidestepped tired romcom conventions but set its own tempo altogether. It’s easy to see why the series has been such a hit in Australia. It’s sure to set tails wagging here too.