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Biting Britcom ‘Back’ returns after four years

The English serio-comic sequence “Back” returns for its second season Wednesday (March 31) at midnight on IFC, the place it’s making its linear debut (Season 1 premiered on Sundance Now).

Headlined by longtime comedy companions David Mitchell and Robert Webb — and created by Simon Blackwell, who co-created FX’s “Breeders” — “Back” is an gratifying six-episode expertise that takes its time to unfold.

As properly it ought to, because it’s been four years since “Back” first aired on Channel 4 within the UK — so, whereas it’s concurrently reminding viewers about what transpired in Season 1, it’s slowly unfolding its Season 2 story arc.

As the six-episode sequence opens, Stephen (Mitchell), who went off the rails in Season 1 in a spiral of alcoholism and outrageous habits, is discharged from an area psychological well being facility and returns to The John Barleycorn pub in Gloucestershire.

He’s nonetheless questioning whether or not his useless father, Laurie (Matthew Holness), was actually his organic father, since his mom, Ellen (Penny Downie), had fairly a couple of romances in her youthful days and isn’t fairly positive. She’s now dwelling with the (much-younger) native vicar, Julian (John Macmillan) together with Stephen’s drama-queen sister, Cass (Louise Brealey).

A scene from
“Back” co-stars (from left): Geoffrey McGivern, John Macmillan, Penny Downie, Olivia Poulet and Louise Brealey.
Sundance Now

Stephen’s largest problem, although, is coping with Andrew (Webb), his darkly comedian nemesis from Season 1, who Stephen dubbed “a glib, dangerous sociopath” and who runs the pub as soon as meant for Stephen’s stewardship. Andrew, for his half, seems to be a modified man — “I help” is his oft-repeated mantra — however has he actually? He nonetheless appears to be enjoying manipulative thoughts video games with Stephen, who prefers sporting his “wide” slippers from the power as a result of his ft are “too long.”

The remainder of the “Back” gang returns for this go-round, together with sad-sack Mike (Oliver Maltman) and the peppy Jan (Jessica Gunning), who have a tendency The John Barleycorn bar; Geoff (Geoffrey McGivern), Stephen’s uncle; and Alison (Olivia Poulet), Stephen’s ex-wife, a lawyer, who’s pleased to lend him her emotional assist and take heed to him natter on about his issues with Andrew and along with his household.

It’s tough to pigeonhole “Back” into a specific style; whereas it’s ostensibly a comedy, and has many humorous moments and features of dialogue (“My mind just turned into an Escher staircase,” Stephen remarks in a single scene), there’s additionally a darker edge to what, on the floor, appear to be trivial pursuits on the components of its characters — notably Andrew’s motives in making an attempt to allure Stephen, and his interplay with Alison’s aged mother and father. And you’ll keep in mind the phrases “hedge vodka,” “Charismatic Mike” and “Cheeky Pete” for causes that can change into clear because the season unfolds.

Mitchell and Webb, who’ve labored since 1995 (whereas at Cambridge) and starred within the Channel 4 sitcom “Peep Show” — and on a number of radio reveals — have an on-screen rapport that comes with years of familiarity, and with the added bonus of enjoying multi-dimensional characters they already know so properly. Mitchell’s Stephen is, by turns, blustery, smug, insecure, humorous and simply flat-out confused, whereas Webb hides Andrew behind an enigmatic half-grin and unctuous angle. You by no means fairly know what he’s pondering — or, for those who suppose you do, you can be completely off-base.

The sequence was filmed on location in Gloucestershire, so that you’ll see plenty of the English countryside and quaint villages, each of which belie a deeper that means to the plot and characters of “Back.”

Or do they?