If you haven’t heard of In and Out of the Kitchen then I’m not surprised. It never became super famous (or at least as famous as Radio 4 shows can become) but I think it was an under-appreciated gem of recent audio sitcoms.
The programme focuses on the lives of Damien Trench (Miles Jupp), an up-tight cookery writer and his partner Anthony (Justin Edwards). It is based on the premise that every episode is a chapter of a book that Damien is writing, each focusing on another of the couple’s various projects or problems as well as featuring one of Damien’s recipes as would be in his cookery book. Building work is a constant feature so other regular characters are the relaxed and often bemused builder Mr Mullaney and his assistant Steven as well as Damien’s slightly unstable agent Ian. Jupp writes the show as well as starring in it with occasional guest-written episodes from Justin Edwards and others.
The most important thing about any sitcom is that it is funny and this just is. All of the characters are close to real life. Them being non-caricatures makes their problems all the funnier. Damien is endlessly neurotic with absolutely no self-awareness but still manages to be incredibly likeable. This is true for almost all of the characters that no matter what their issues are and even though they are all extremely different they are at their core likeable people who are good at what they do and are just trying their best. There’s a good interview with Miles Jupp where he talks about how in many sitcoms the plot is focused on characters being bad at their jobs but he wanted this to be about the opposite.
“I don’t want jokes about incompetence – I want them, if at all, to arise out a lack of awareness.” – Miles Jupp
An interesting aspect of the show is that Damien and Anthony are a gay couple and it is almost never talked about. The couple are supposed to be together for almost a decade and the intimacy of their every-day relationship is abundantly clear without ever having to shout that they are together at the listener. It can often be difficult on radio to convey a relationship without having to say it out loud but Jupp writes it expertly making them an utterly believable pairing. Whilst there are a few moments in the series where LGBT-related issues are brought up (coming out, knowing someone that’s closeted etc.) it isn’t really talked about which in this instance I quite like as it gives a clear picture of them as an absolutely average couple. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for LGBT couples to talk about LGBT issues and I love some shows that do that excellently but it’s nice to have the diversity of some media that doesn’t feel the need to address sexuality as it is so commonplace. In fact, the word gay is never actually used in the throughout the series, something I noticed after quite a few listens but it’s clear that it never actually needs to be said because no one ever needs to question their relationship.
There was also a short-lived television version on BBC 4. These were essentially just filmed versions of the Radio episodes but they worked well with the visuals and it was nice to see the characters interact with each other as well as giving the show the opportunity for visual jokes. These are all available online now (although slightly illegally).
I hope you will have a listen or a watch and that you enjoy the show as much as I have as throughout its run, no matter how bad the bickering or aggravations between the central protagonists it is a joyous experience that makes the listener constantly feel like smiling.
You can buy some of the series of In and Out of the Kitchen on iTunes (the only way I can find to get the other series outside of waiting for Radio 4 repeats is via private copies which can be found online if you look hard enough).