Twenty years ago, an entire comic universe - full of 'real people doing real things' - was formed in an unknown comedian's Bolton bedroom. Will we ever return to the Phoenix Club asks Tom Fordy.Tom Fordy, The Telegraph, 13th January 2020
The first sitcom pilot of the year stars Lee Mack in this real-time story set over one man's terrible half-hour (although the pilot's only 20 minutes long).Ian Wolf, On The Box, 6th January 2019
After his foray into live sitcom with Not Going Out just before Christmas Lee Mack is back in sitcomland with this all-star fast-paced one-off pilot in which the twist is that everything happens in real time.Bruce Dessau, Beyond The Joke, 6th January 2019
There may be questions over whether the furious pace can be sustained for the extra 50 per cent running time required for the traditional BBC sitcom half-hour. Or indeed whether such maelstroms of mayhem can be conjured up week after week. But this is a promising germ for that holy grail of comedy commissioners everywhere: a mainstream suburban sitcom that doesn't suck.Steve Bennett, Chortle, 5th January 2019
You've finished The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Killing but you're still hungry for more boxsets. Fear not, Standard Issue writers are on the case with some gems you might not yet have seen. Karen Campbell rises like an inflatable penis to sing her praises for Peter Kay's celebration of working-class northern night spots.Karen Campbell, Standard Issue, 18th July 2016
From first viewing, The Aliens is E4's most ambitious programme since Misfits due to its intriguing concept and energetic central cast. Fintan Ryan's drama is set in a UK where aliens crash-landed forty years prior and have since been segregated into their own city called Troy. These aliens are allowed to cross over to the human side of the wall as long as they go through border control where they are tagged and sprayed. The other big concept running throughout The Aliens is that alien hair when set alight becomes a rather potent drug and therefore it is sold on the black market. It's this idea that totally freaks out border guard Lewis (Michael Socha) who, in an early exposition-filled speech, outlines why he hates the aliens or 'Morks' as they are offensively called. Outside of his work Lewis lives a rather lonely existence, sharing a home with his father (Neil Fitzmaurice) and regularly having to bail out his ditzy sister Holly (Holli Dempsey) and her partner Ivan (Alex Beckett). Lewis' only solace comes via the online chats he has with the exotic Lilyhot (Michaela Coel) who unbeknownst to him is actually an alien gangster. Lilyhot's story is the other one that unfolds throughout the first episode as we see her engage in illegal activity with her partner Christophe (Ashley Walters) as they rob and pillage their way through Troy. Lilyhot and Lewis' worlds are slowly intertwined after Christophe kidnaps Holly and our hero must go behind enemy lines to save her. However the twist in the tale is that Lewis himself his half alien, a product of an affair between his mother and an unknown father, which changes his world view on everything. But by the end of the episode the only two people who know are kindly alien cleaner Dominic (Jim Howick) and Lilyhot the latter of whom uses the information to blackmail Lewis.
I admire any TV show that is willing to take risks and stand out from the crowd with The Aliens sort of succeeding on both fronts. What I liked about The Aliens is that, even though it has an outlandish concept, the reason it works is due to its central characters. Lewis is certainly a well-drawn character initially presented as a dull everyman he quickly becomes an unwitting hero and learns of his true parentage in the course of a couple of days. It's because Allen makes the audience care about Lewis that it's easier to take some of the weaker parts of the story which feature Christophe and Lilyhot's crime spree. That being said I found Lilyhot herself to be a fantastic and unique character, a sort of extra-terrestrial femme fatale who has one over on all of the male characters in the show. When I first saw the trailers for The Aliens I thought it would primarily be providing a commentary on illegal immigration and while that's certainly one of the drama's themes it doesn't feel like any sort of message is being rammed down our throats. Furthermore I enjoyed the styling of The Aliens especially when it comes to the design of the city of Troy which we first saw through the eyes of Lewis. Troy is presented as a lawless world full of darkness and I feel the production team has done an excellent job bringing it to life. Of the cast, I thought it was great to see Michael Socha take centre stage after years of being part of ensemble in the likes of This is England and Being Human. Socha brings an easy charm to the role of Lewis and I feel he really excelled in the scenes where he learned of his true parentage. Jim Howick provided some great light relief as Lewis' ally Dominic whilst Ashley Walters perfectly utilised his gangster persona to play Christophe. However it was Michaela Coel who stole the show in my opinion as she poured tons of life into the complex character of Lilyhot. After seeing her for the first time last year in Chewing Gum, it's great to Coel live up to her early promise in a role in which she's asked to convey most of her feelings through facial expressions rather than dialogue. It's thanks to Coel and Socha that The Aliens works as well as it does and I have to applaud Ryan for creating a TV show that offers something a little different to the usual dramas we seem to be offered up on a weekly basis.Matt, The Custard TV, 12th March 2016