The simple answer is because it’s good. Yes, every now and then it does happen and somebody comes up with a decent, honest to goodness, line and length studio-based sitcom. And with Miranda, writer and series lead Miranda Hart has done just that.
The show is essentially a TV version of Hart’s Radio 2 comedy, Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop, and is semi-autobiographical. Miranda owns a joke shop downstairs from her flat, which she runs with uptight best friend Penny (Sarah Hadland). Next door is Conky’s Grill, a bistro in which Gary (Tom Ellis) is the chef. And of course, Miranda has had the hots for him for years, but it never quite happens thanks to her endearingly inept attempts at seduction. And what sitcom would be complete without an overbearing mother? Patricia Hodge is at her very best as Miranda’s mother, Penny, who is desperate to get her worrisome daughter married off.
So far, so average.
But what sets Miranda out as something special is Hart herself, and the rest just gels around her. She has a charmingly self-effacing air that is forever gamely tries to overcome her social ineptness. This usually manifests itself as some deft slapstick.
Hart engages with the audience instantly - mostly thanks to her direct addresses and side-glances to camera, even in the middle of the narrative. Her manner is in the great tradition of some of our best comedy characters, being essentially a lovable idiot. She suffers from the same insecurities and desires we do, but magnified to absurd but strangely believable levels.
And crucially, we like her in a way we don’t like David Brent. We sympathise with her, we want her to succeed, and we laugh - both with and at her.
And as for Patricia Hodge, it’s just a brilliant, brilliant performance. Penny is a wonderful sitcom mum - overbearing, snobbish, batty. And it’s fantastic to see an actress who has been on our screens for years still doing good work. And to a vintage TV daftie like me, it was nice to see her sharing a brief moment of screen time with her former Holding the Fort co-star Peter Davison in last night’s second episode.
Above all, Miranda has that comfortingly British innocence about it in that absurd and daft way that some of our best comedy has had over the years.
There are, as with everything, some weaknesses. Tom Ellis, as I may have noted in the past, is not the greatest practitioner of the actor’s craft ever to grace a TV screen. As a result his chemistry with Hart sometimes feels a little forced. Elsewhere there are some damp firing gags here and there, but that’s something even the best comedies suffer from.
Miranda might not be the new Fawlty Towers, but it does have charm, laughs and a likable star, which is certainly enough to make it the best studio-based sitcom since Black Books. And I don’t say that lightly