The Cafe: Pilot review

The day to day happenings in a small cafe in a small seaside town. Without getting too spoilery – there are very few happenings.

This little half hour show had passed me by entirely until my dad mentioned it on Sunday when we’d gathered to watch the grand prix at my brother’s place. We had a bit of time to kill and Sky Anytime was able to deliver it, so we settled in. I for one had pretty low expectations, I’m fussy when it comes to comedies and the only thing this one had to sell itself to me was that it was set and filmed in Weston-Super-Mare, where my dad grew up, where my grandmother lives and where I’ve been holidaying multiple times a year since I was born

Marine LakeThis is going to be a slightly unusual review, because it’s a very personal one. Ordinarily I would try to review a show objectively, talking about the technicalities of the writing, characters, direction and concept, talking about it in terms that would allow other people to decide whether they would like it or not. But I’m not really going to even bother trying to do that for The Cafe.

I absolutely adored this little half hour show, I found it laugh out loud hilarious and misty eyed sweet, but I realise that this show was practically made for me and that many others may struggle to see the charms. The reason for this is that The Cafe is set and filmed in Weston-Super-Mare a seaside town that’s caught between being a sleepy retirement location full of old people’s homes and cafes with cream teas, and a tourist destination that needs to cater for young people necessary to keep the economy going.

Knightstone redevelopment across the causeway Every shot on The Cafe is familiar, I know exactly where the cafe itself was built, I recognise the streets, the little passenger train that goes up and down the front. It’s more familiar to me than anywhere else in the world – it’s the only place that I’ve been to regularly since I was born. Rummage through my photos on flickr and you’ll see the same locations – Steep Holm in the background, the new pier, Brean Down, Knightstone. They don’t even get named in the series itself, but they’re part of the scenery and they’re beautifully shot with light reflecting off the water, careful framing to offer contrasts – these are shots that I’ve been trying to photograph for years!

But more than looking familiar everything feels familiar. The slow leisurely pace you have to adopt talking to old people, the excitement and unashamed nosiness when someone new appears, the slow distribution of a not terribly funny joke. Particularly familiar was the way the two Londoners having to adopt the speed of their lives, slowing everything down to the pace of Weston and when they do that and start looking at Weston as more than just the arse-end of nowhere, they realised how peaceful and comfortable it can be. I’ve stood looking at the same view thinking exactly the same thing.

Postcard shotI genuinely have no idea whether anyone who doesn’t have my experience of Weston-Super-Mare or somewhere like it would appreciate the show in the same way. I suspect maybe not, particularly if you’re going in expecting a fast paced, punchy comedy that charges through its half hour to a hilarious conclusion. But for me, watching with my family – my dad who now lives about 20 minutes walk from where the Cafe was filmed and my brother whom I’ve shared many walks down the beach with, mocking and appreciating the slowness of the place… this show was about as perfect as they come.

The Cafe is on Sky 1, Wednesday nights at 8pm.

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  1. January 4th, 2012
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