Couch Pumpkin: Sofa Adventures
News and reviews for the big and small screens…where potatoes fear to tread.

Sex and the other City ~ Personal Affairs


A scene from 'Personal Affairs' (BBC)

BBC 3 is an odd beast. Supposedly aimed at the younger viewer (in the much sought after 16-34 age bracket), it rarely seems to produce anything of note and, in my opinion, vastly underestimates its target audience on most occasions. Unfortunately its newest ‘dramedy’, Personal Affairs, is another miss. Vapid, condescending and just badly written, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are extremely bored.

The show is certainly zippy, plunging us headlong into the world of Hartmann Payne, some sort of investment bank, where four plucky PAs totter into work on their spindly stilettos. We have Grace, cheery assistant to weird Texan Rock; Lucy, an Essex girl (with a terrible fake accent) who does all her boss’s work for him; Midge, a scatterbrained Scouser who wants to be a musical star; and Nicole, the ‘Samantha’ of the group (aka the maneater). We are also introduced to new temp Sid, who is an ‘Emo Goth’ with social interaction issues and a PPE degree from Oxford. Right.

I mean no disrespect to the actors, all of whom seem to be trying valiantly – but the problem is that the characters are all fairly unlikeable. We are supposed to believe that they have great friendships, and yet their interactions are meaningless and forgettable. Perhaps they are meant to seem normal and relatable in comparison to the very 2D bankers (posh, lecherous if a man, metaphorical balls of steel if a woman), but I just found them all irritating.

Exacerbating this problem is the fact that they don’t seem to do any work. Instead they take lots of time off to shag random men in lifts and stationery cupboards. I’m all for exploring the love lives of liberated women, but when we look at Midge in particular she comes across as pathetic rather than empowered – somehow unable to resist her slimy colleague’s advances, she emerges from the cupboard clutching her knickers and wailing ‘I accidentally shagged [Blah]’. Sid also has some dubious sexual fantasies about another pervy banker, which seem to suggest that even an educated woman can’t resist the allure of a chauvinist. All this from a female writer!

Midge is also saddled with the worst exposition scene I have ever seen on television. I won’t spoil the amazing twist for you (haha) but she gives a very serious revelation to a virtual stranger with seemingly no motivation other than that the secret needed to be told to move the mystery forward, and the writer did not know how else to do it.

It’s a shame the show is such a mess. I think there’s the kernel of something interesting there -there is room for a British Sex and the City, perhaps. The creator Gabbie Asher, in the BBC’s press release, remarks that ‘life as a PA can be fascinating – full of challenges, intrigue, ambition, gossip and laughing till your insides ache’.  Unfortunately at some point in the writing process she forgot to include the challenges and intrigues of being a PA and decided to shoehorn in as much sex as possible around a couple of other flimsy plotlines, complete with reverse snobbery and some dodgy gender issues too. If you love frothy chick lit then you might enjoy some aspects of the show, but otherwise I would give Personal Affairs a wide berth.


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