Elliott Kerrigan’s pilot won the Trans Comedy Award by the BBC Writers Room, and Kerrigan was soon commissioned to write a few more episodes; and so Boy Meets Girl reached the BBC2 screen earlier this year. A happy-go-lucky, slightly awkward at times, comedy series, it is the first to touch the delicate subject of transgender/cisgender relationships. What we find great about it, however, is exactly the “flaw” many critics screamed about – this is “just” another stereotypical comedy of two people falling in love, and their very different families coming to terms with it. Yes, the subject of ladies that were gentlemen is present, but so is the matter of their different ages (Leo, played by Harry Hepple, is 26, whereas Judy – played by the talented Rebecca Root – is about to hit 40), online relationships, self-esteem and, of course, pub lunches with the family.
Both protagonists live with their parents. On Leo’s side there’s sarcastic mother Pam (Denise Welch), domesticated father Tony (Nigel Betts) and flirt expert brother James (Jonny Dixon). On Judy’s, we meet oversharing mother Peggy (timeless Janine Duvitski) and lustful Jackie (Lizzie Roper), and this first season goes mostly around Judy “coming out” to future mother in law, Pam. Leo, an extremely pleasant young man, seems not to be fussed with Judy’s peculiar past, though obviously when things get more physical he starts to doubt his feelings. Hepple is the perfect cast for Leo, making his acceptance and attitude towards the world completely believable. Root, however, is the true soul of the series. With her personal background, she knows how to play Judy in a most human, self-affirming way, giving the comedy a warmth so many times absent from the genre. (Later this year we’ll have the chance to see her in The Danish Girl)
The rest of the cast works mostly as comic relief, and hats down to Welch and Duvitski, the first still not given the parts she certainly deserved (many laughs were had in all moments Pam picked up her imaginary diary and started reading) and the last just proving what a great British actress she always was and still is. And though Dixon at some points feels like a drop out from The In-Betweeners (one more mention about “fitties” and we’ll puke), the less achieved character is certainly Anji, Pam’s hairdressing boss (Vineeta Rishi), who seems to be written in a rush with no real thought behind it.
With Paul Walker’s no-nonsense, roller coaster directing rhythm, a kind of humour that mixes the best of My Family with some pretty bawdy lines, and a feel good sense that will easily lead to binge central, Boy Meets Girl can be the guilty pleasure of a rainy afternoon, no strings attached. The transgender storyline may get cringe worthy at times, particularly when Judy explains to Leo the ins and outs of her sex-change surgery – it’s so obviously intended as an “educational moment for the audience” that we can almost hear the fourth wall falling to the ground. Still, if this is what it takes for a general audience to understand and accept a third gender, tumble along. Who cares anyway which bits she was born with – we’re only here for the love & laughs.
Boy Meets Girl was released in DVD by RLJ Entertainment Ltd on 12th October 2015