With plots revolving around rising unemployment, a deepening recession and families struggling to make ends meet, ITV’s Shelley seems almost prescient when viewed a quarter of a century on from its original transmission.
Or perhaps it’s more a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hywel Bennett returns as work shy James Shelley in the latest release from Network, a season which saw our hero living in his bedsit with partner Fran (Belinda Sinclair), baby Emma and the regular visitor Mrs Hawkins (Judith Tewson) while being threatened with work and responsibility.
The sparkle of early seasons may be fading with the loss of Peter Tilbury as writer, but there’s still enough sarcasm and digs at the establishment to make the series worth spending time with.
There’s little effort to vary the setting of the show while the appearance of Mrs H as the annoying neighbour-cum-babysitter does become repetitive, but like Steptoe and Son before it, Shelley seems comfortable when taking place between the same four walls, the lack of success for Bennett’s character the main reason we return each week.
Bennett, as ever, holds everything together as Shelley, his ability to dish out a jaded one-liner still as glorious now as it was back in the day. For his performance alone the series gains an extra star.
Shelley Series Four is out on 22 June from Network DVD.