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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
Dossa and Joe's Royle allegiance
Anne Charleston and Michael Caton
Dossa and Joe is set in Australia
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By William Gallagher
BBC News Online
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Dossa and Joe is a quiet observational comedy with little plot and with characters sitting on a sofa but creator Caroline Aherne does not want you to compare it to her identical-sounding hit The Royle Family.

She even rigs a scene in the opening episode of this where Joe talks about the British Monarchy and gets to say her previous show's title and catchphrase: "Royal family? My a***."

In this case, though, the sofa that Dossa, played by Anne Charleston, and her husband Joe, played by Michael Caton, sit on belongs to a marriage guidance counsellor.

For there is a touch more plot to this series and it turns on how Dossa and Joe have been happily married for 40 years yet now, when he has retired and they are seeing more of each other, their marriage is in trouble.

Caroline Aherne moved to Australia in June 2001
Caroline Aherne does not stray too far from The Royle Family
Very funnily, Joe does not see it at all: "It's Dossa's problem," he tells the counsellor, "You just carry on, love, and cure Dossa - anything I can do to help, fine."

The show was filmed in Sydney last October and November - it is not an Australian sitcom imported by BBC Two, it was produced for the UK and has yet to be screened in Australia - and Aherne does everything but star in it.

Wildly varying

The format she has created is that the pair's short scenes in therapy are interspersed with Joe's voiceover thoughts - curiously not Dossa's, though she does speak more than he does in the sessions - and scenes of them both with family and friends.

The therapy scenes are extremely good but some of the other material varies wildly and also amplifies one failing that The Royle Family began to exhibit in its last series.

Specifically, a lot of time is spent in reference humour: characters quoting ads, films, Homer Simpson and so on.

Sometimes it is eye-opening as the characters do it badly and the scenes reveal a lot about what they are and what they think about.

Joe thinks there are no problems in his marriage
Joe is sophisticated compared to some of his friends
But at other times it becomes tiresome and even risky: the character who quotes Homer Simpson does it well and all you feel is that, yes, he's right, Homer is funny, what has that got to do with this show?

Where the technique blossoms, though, is where Aherne uses it after having a character describe themselves, such as when Joe claims to be into sophisticated humour.

You cannot help but grin at that because by that point, we have seen what he is like. On the back of that gag, Aherne gives us an example of him trying badly to repeat the joke he has seen on a television commercial.

Gems

Best of all, he is frustrated in his story by interruptions from his poker friends who are so stupid that suddenly you realise Joe actually is more sophisticated than them.

Gem moments like these are quite plentiful, they are just spread evenly over the episode and, like The Royle Family, it makes you smile more than it makes you laugh.

With the marriage problem story impetus, it is as if Caroline Aherne has been watching Marion & Geoff and has tried to get some of that show's pain into her humour.

That is not a bad thing and it adds strength to the comedy, a desire to see what happens next to this couple that The Royle Family never managed.

But for a woman who so publicly announced she was leaving The Royle Family behind her, Caroline Aherne has not gone very far.

The first episode of Dossa and Joe is on Wednesday 15 May, 2200 - 2230, BBC Two.

See also:

15 May 02 | Reviews
Dossa and Joe: Your views
18 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
Aherne goes down under for comedy
09 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Royle star Aherne 'quits' TV
09 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Aherne's success and excess
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