Based on its initial airing this week, I hope to God that Over to Bill doesn't return as it was completely flawed from start to finish. The premise sounded promising enough as weatherman Bill Onion (Hugh Dennis) was fired from his job at the BBC and had to look for work elsewhere. His mate Jez (Neil Morrissey) promised to arrange a meeting with a powerful acquaintance but this meant that Bill had to keep his friend's horrible fiancée Selina (Helen George) on side. This wasn't easy as Selina was portrayed as a high-maintenance gold-digger who was only marrying Jez for the money he made selling his dog chewing gum idea.
I was surprised that Over to Bill was written and directed by such an experienced comedy hand as Red Dwarf's Doug Naylor because to me it felt like the work of a first-time writer. Every cliché was trotted out here from Bill accidentally drinking breast milk to him forgetting to bring a wedding gift to Jez's nuptials and having to stop at a petrol station to purchase a replacement.
In addition to the old-fashioned script, the characters were on the whole fairly unlikeable. The only exception to this rule was Bill's wife, played by the lovely Tracy-Ann Oberman, who I felt was far too good for this fool of a man. The fact that the final gag involved Bill and his wife donating bone marrow tells you all you need to know about a programme that more than suited the slot that was recently occupied by such duds as Father Figure and The Wright Way.The Custard TV, 3rd May 2014
I thought this first episode was full of laughs and began the development of some very promising characters.Lucy Anne Gray, Gray Comedy, 1st May 2014
What little comedy there is comes from Onion bumbling and getting into more trouble as he lies - badly - to dig his way out of it. The trope is as familiar as the setting, even if Naylor tries to make a clumsy joke out of the cliche.Steve Bennett, Chortle, 30th April 2014
Hugh Dennis is Bill, a hangdog weatherman who is sacked from the BBC and replaced by a stunning young woman. Infuriated, bitter Bill sets out to find another job, this time with C4. It's not much of a premise for a comedy, but then Over to Bill isn't much of a comedy.
It's supposed to be a comedy (written by Red Dwarf's Doug Naylor) because it's part of a brief revival of the much-loved Comedy Playhouse strand, which produced abiding hits Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part and The Liver Birds.
But Over to Bill won't trouble the comedy stratosphere like those classics. There are jokes about the accidental drinking of breast-milk, emergency present-buying from a garage and a particularly tasteless routine about bone marrow transplants. Neil Morrissey and Call the Midwife's Helen George co-star as Bill's shallow friends.Alison Graham, Radio Times, 29th April 2014
What do you get when you cross Hugh Dennis and Neil Morrissey with an unremarkable script about a weatherman and his woes? This one-off comedy from Doug Naylor, co-creator of Red Dwarf. Dennis stars as Bill Onion, a middle-aged TV weatherman fired from the BBC and trying to claw his way back with the help of his best friend Jez (Morrissey), Jez's hostile wife (Helen George) and his own wife (Tracy-Ann Oberman). It's the first of three new pilot episodes in a revamp of the BBC's Comedy Playhouse strand.Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian, 29th April 2014
The pilot episode was shot in a frantic six-day period earlier this month, cramming 22 different locations into a 32-page script.Baby Cow Productions, 4th April 2014