Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
Gates takes the original situation of a school yard at “dropping-off” and “picking-up” time. As the series develops, the real location becomes the primary school as a whole, but the real comedy is in the increasingly strange but funny characters that all have some root in truth.
Our central characters are the most “normal.” They are the parents of Chloe, played by Tom Ellis and Joanna Page. Of course, they have their crazy sides too but for the most part, they are our eyes into this sitcom and the interactions with the rest of the comedic parents and teachers. They are played very ably and Tom Ellis does a great job as the everyman builder who is constantly putting himself into embarrassing or crazy situations because of his misunderstanding of school-yard etiquette.
For the most part, it’s the rest of the characters that deliver the comedy. Tony Gardner swaps an Alien in My Parents are Aliens for a clueless, recently-redundant, posh father. Ella Kenion plays an australian Mum, desperate to make friends amongst the other parents and then you have great support from Sue Johnston who gets to play a great Primary school teacher who is at the end of her wits. These are a handful of characters in amongst a whole multitude which keeps the series fresh and the stories quite amusing.
The best actor in the show is actually not one of the many adults but the central child, Chloe, played by Mari Ann Bull. She has great comedic timing and her reactions to the many embarrassing things that the adults are doing her around her sells the comedy situations and usually delivers the laughs.
In fact, that’s the main issue with Gates. It’s not hilariously funny. It’s very quirky and clever and the stories are always original or in the some of the better cases, very recognisable. Setting the sitcom in a school, making the parents the central characters rather than the teachers, is great. Some great comedy comes from the Parents Evening or just from the first episode where Tom Ellis’ Mark is trying to keep up with which themed day it is that week. They are stories that work because for parents, they are recognisable and probably very close to the truth.
It’s the stories as a whole that keeps the show watchable and charming. It doesn’t have hugely memorable moments or a few, great, individual characters that always deliver a great line or a sure-fire laugh. Its gentle humour but done very well. The acting and the situation keep it mildly funny but you won’t think its the funniest show on tv.
Overall, Gates is a very good show and another example of how a recognisable, familiar location can make a sitcom feel fresh. The situations the characters find themselves in are very recognisable, making the stories very funny, even though there is very little actual “laugh-out-loud” humour or great individual characters.
Best Episode – Episode 3, where Chloe admits to having a boyfriend, freaking out her dad Mark.
Best performance – Mari Ann Bull as Chloe
Should there be another season? – I think so. There is plenty life in the sitcom yet and its very watchable.
Season Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)