With season one of This Way Up (Channel 4, Wednesday), Aisling Bea cornered the post-Fleabag market in irreverent comedy streaked with poignancy. In an endearing opening to series two, Bea's character, Áine, is in a better place emotionally and psychologically and – as a bonus – poised to hook up with smoothie older man Richard (The Crown's Tobias Menzies).
Meanwhile sister Shona (Sharon Horgan, also an executive producer of the programme) is proceeding with her wedding plans to nerdy Vish (Aasif Mandvi), not withstanding the more-than-platonic kiss planted on her by colleague Charlotte (Game of Thrones's Indira Varma).
This Way Up was conceived and written by Bea and is steeped in the Kildare comedian's occasionally boisterous, often thoughtful brand of humour. The embarrassments and minor irritations, but also the melancholy, of everyday life are a rich seam for her, as we see she and Shona take a trip to a sauna together and are soon struggling to stay seated upright amid the pummelling heat. Later, visiting Shona's swanky new house in the sticks, she can't get enough of the heated floor. This is followed by some mucking about with a bodhrán.
Bea is obviously to be applauded for exploring the stress and strains of modern existence through a filter of frequently riotous gag-making. That said, the portrayal of Áine and Shona as two Irish people in London periodically feels laid on a bit.
They liken their sauna to a confession box, as no actual Irish person in the 21st century ever would, and then apparently plunge into a decade of the rosary. Obviously this plays well with the target market of chattering-class Londoners, among whom there is sometimes an assumption that Irish people are only ever one mild existential crisis away from whipping out the holy water and an effigy of the Pope.
Back home, however, I wonder if we might be permitted roll our eyes slightly.
Ditto the sequence when Shona, in her wonderfully swish kitchen, appears to be listening to Céilí House. Throw in a Riverdance reference and something to do with nuns and we’d have the full bingo card.
But fans of season one will otherwise have adored the show’s return. There’s lots of Áine and Shona throwing sparks off one another. And Menzies, up against it in his scenes with the sparkling Bea, proves surprisingly effective at squirming comedy. This Way Up, then, continues on the up and up.