You get the sense with programs like Aftertaste that their goal isn’t to make us laugh, or entertain us, or to satirise something happening in our society, or even to examine the human condition. No, their goal is to stay alive. Staying alive, in TV terms, meaning: GET ANOTHER SERIES.
Aftertaste’s relentless drive to GET ANOTHER SERIES was manifest from episode one, when the first seeds of doubt were sewn about Grandma June (she’s thought to be dead but is she really?), and when the first taps of the endless drumbeat of Diana’s ambition were sounded. The drumbeat that would, inevitably, Adelaide being Adelaide, take Diana far away from Adelaide in order to have the career she wants.
If Aftertaste gets a second series, and it probably will, this will all play out: Grandma June will bowl up in town and bring even more chaos with her than her dead ex-husband Jim, and Diana will return from London in triumph. Or have become successful far closer to home. Or maybe she’s just moved into her own flat down the road? The big finale with the ‘up yours’ cake at least left us guessing.
There are a lot of positive things to say about Aftertaste – it had a good cast, great scenery, it was occasionally funny, and the clash of ‘teenage woke feminist’ and ‘arrogant older bloke’ was less annoying than it could have been – but the big negative was always that it was plotted by THE BOOK. THE BOOK being one of those tomes written by some great American showrunner, which tells you when to introduce the A-plot, the B-plot, the C-plot, the D-plot, etc, and which generally make almost everything on TV these days solid but predictable.
By the way, we’re not naïve to the benefits of following the advice in THE BOOK – go watch a random selection of TV from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and you’ll see that a reasonable amount of it will feature a meandering or inconsistent plot, and some pretty strangely-drawn characters. Having said that, old TV shows are often less predictable than their modern-day equivalents, and do, at least, feel unique and different.
But if unique and different is what you need to sacrifice in order to GET ANOTHER SERIES, then why not? Everyone likes to stay in employment, right?
So, vale, Aftertaste. There were some promising elements in there, but subtlety of plotting was not one of them. And – and this is kind of key for a sitcom – it really should have been possible to get more laughs out of that mismatched family, so what the hell went wrong?