How Not To Live Your Life. Don Danbury (Dan Clark). Image credit: Brown Eyed Boy.

How Not To Live Your Life

Sitcom about an arrogant single twenty-something man who is struggling to navigate his way through life. He is not helped by his bad instincts

2007 - 2011  (BBC Three)
21 (pilot + 3 series)
Dan Clark, David Armand, Sinead Moynihan, Finlay Robertson, Leila Hoffman, Laura Haddock, Daniel Lawrence Taylor, Silas Carson
Dan Clark
Brown Eyed Boy

Don is a neurotic, single twenty-something failing to navigate his way through the very basics of life. His biggest enemy is his overactive mind, which plays out countless scenes of things he shouldn't do or say.

When Don moves into a house left to him by his recently deceased grandmother, he meets Eddie - his Nan's over-enthusiastic carer who doesn't want to leave. Don soon realises there are advantages to letting him stay.

To help pay off the huge back payments on the house, Don decides to get a lodger. He ends up choosing Abby, the girl he was in love with as a teenager and still fancies. The trouble is Abby isn't single - she has a snobby boyfriend called Karl.

Having become close to winning the heart of his ideal woman, Abby, in the last series, Don suddenly finds himself bereft at the start of Series 2. Oblivious and newly single, Abby has opted for six months travelling to get over her ex-boyfriend - leaving Don with both a void in his life and a spare room to fill.

Luckily, Don has Eddie to cater to his every need, which includes helping in his search for a new lodger. Eddie used to be Don's nan's carer but happily transferred his duties to taking care of Don, who inherited his nan's house.

From cooking and cleaning to cutting up his food, scrubbing his back and wiping his nose, among other things, no task is too great or small for Eddie and he's the closest thing Don has to a friend.

To make matters worse, Eddie has taken on Mrs Treacher, Don's elderly neighbour, who has become more eccentric than ever since her husband passed away. Eddie brings her everywhere with him - much to Don's dismay.

Don, however, soon realises that Abby might return from her travels still single and ready for him to waltz back into her affections. So this could be his last chance to play the field, plus it will earn him some extra cash. It's just up to Don and Eddie to decide who gets the spare room.

At the climax of Series 2 Don's luck was about to change as it looked like he was finally going to get it on with his flatmate, Sam. But on joining Don at the start of Series 3, it appears that things didn't quite go according to plan, and each day is a trial for Don as he must face up to the fact that he blew his chance with Sam.

To make matters worse, she has a new boyfriend who is everything Don isn't - mature, reliable, clever and not at all self-obsessed. Once more Don has to deal with a fraught love life that involves dates with an aristocrat, a tramp and a really angry woman. On top of that he is sucked into taking part in Top Gun - The Musical, tries therapy and even sells his soul to become a corporate highflyer. But despite all this, he is still no wiser as to how to live his life...

Our Review: The 2007 pilot of this sitcom was average at best, lacking both focus and reason. The first series was quite an improvement - the stronger premise (Don living in his deceased gran's house and plotting to dispense of Karl and win-over attractive Abby) and the new character of Eddie (David Armand in his best role yet) made all the difference.

However, Dan Clark still struggled to make the self-centred Don likeable or believable during the first few episodes, something which no doubt put some viewers off early on. Those who stuck with it saw How Not To Live Your Life grow and mature (as a programme!), and many were enthusiastic when news came of a second series having been ordered.

Thankfully, that latter group have been richly rewarded. The second series of How Not To Live Your Life was almost entirely a different programme from the start. Tighter, more consistently funny, and with some highly advantageous cast changes, the earlier episodes are almost worthless in comparison. Likewise, Series 3 kept up the standard set in the second, centring on Don's creeping realisation of his love for Sam, and the inner torment of having to watch her going out with an older and far more successful man.

Sadly, BBC Three decided to cancel the series early in 2011 after the appointment of a new channel controller. Unlike many of the other titles axed at the time, however, HNTLYL was awarded a final Christmas special to wrap up its loose ends - and the show certainly went out with a bang.