The only UK sitcom about bingo, Eyes Down, ran for two seasons and a Christmas Special in 2003-4. Did you see it at the time? If not, you can catch extracts and some full episodes on YouTube. It is not available on DVD or even VHS, and therein may be a clue as to how it was viewed at the time and subsequently. Although there are still a lot of supporters of Eyes Down around. It wasn’t repeated and there are no current plans to repeat it, although it was screened a few years back in Canada!
The press release said:
“Two fat ladies, 88; all the fours, 44; two little ducks, 22 - it's Eyes Down in Angela Clarke's new comedy about the lives, loves, hopes and disappointments of the staff and punters at The Rio, a Liverpool bingo palace. Paul O'Grady is Ray, bingo caller and manager, who presides over a motley staff. On catering, there's Christine, whose Chihuahua compensates for her unfortunate love-life. But Christine is blind to the devotion she arouses in floor man Martin, a mother's boy whose life is a world away from that of dandy mechanic and ladies' man Bobby, Ray's bête noire. Sandy, young, pregnant and not too bright, works with Martin on the floor and has a boyfriend, Terry. Mary, the elderly cleaner, is an endless source of bizarre anecdotes and skewed wisdom. Completing the line-up are the regular players: Kitty, Kay and Kathline.”
I have to say that if that’s the best fanfare for the series the BBC can come up with, then it’s not surprising the series didn’t catch the imagination of viewers and reviewers alike!
It’s not unfair to say that the UK critics gave the series a right royal panning. The reviews ranged from dreadful to average middle of the road sitcom fare, and therefore it was a little surprising that it got a second series (of 6 episodes, compared to Series 1’s 8 episodes) and a Christmas Special.
There are scarcely any reviews on the internet, and it seems as though many people are happy that the series sunk without trace. However there does seem to be a lot of people who remember Eyes Down with fondness, and while a new series is very unlikely to be made, lobbying hard might bring about the series and the Christmas special being released on did. Even the most favourable review I found (from a fan of the series, advocating that it be re-shown) also included references to glaring faults in the plots that can veer towards the thin and unconvincing, and some jokes that miss the mark by a mile, and a set looks like it was knocked up in ten minutes before taping began!
I’ve been watching some of the snippets and episodes on YouTube, and I have to say that, speaking personally, I didn’t think that Eyes Down was very funny, or representative of any land-based live Bingo event that I’ve been at, either as a caller or as a player. Overall, I think the whole thing lacked the warmth and genuine humour and comradeship that can be found at Bingo. I guess they had to make some “interesting” things happen in the Bingo Hall, but it just seemed that these were vignettes that could have been slotted into any bog-standard sitcom, and not one about our favourite pastime- Bingo.
So we wait for a definitive decent play about Bingo. Any screenplay writers out there? Good Luck!