Review: Sirens 1×1

A miracle: a Channel 4 comedy-drama that's both funny and dramatic

Sirens on Channel 4

In the UK: Mondays, 10pm, Channel 4. Available on 4oD

Oh joy. A British comedy drama. On Channel 4. I can name all the good ones of those made in the last five years on one… remind what they were again?

Fair dos, though. This is different. Sirens, based on the true-life accounts of actual paramedics, is actually quite enjoyable, to the extent that I’m going to watch tonight’s second episode and I think you should, too.

Does it help that the US already wanted to remake it before the first episode even aired? Here’s a couple of trailers.

Kayvan Novak, Rhys Thomas, Richard Madden and Amy Beth Hayes star in a series from Brian Fillis, inspired by Tom Reynolds’ book Blood, Sweat and Tea.

Swept along by an endless tide of bodily fluids (rarely their own), the trio of world-weary paramedics bicker, fight and shag their way through the darkly funny maelstrom of their lives. Behind the uniforms, the sirens, and the fast driving, they are three ordinary blokes trying to make it through yet another shift.

But once they’ve finished saving other people’s lives, will they be able to salvage their own?

Is it any good?
There are two things you have to overlook on this to really enjoy it: the stunningly bad acting and the overwhelming “blokeyness” of it all. Once you’re passed them, it’s actually a very good show that veers between real-life insights into British paramedics, untainted by Casualty‘s soap-opera qualities, and outright comedy.

We have our three heroes: a newbie Muslim paramedic (Kayvan Novak of Fonejacker and Four Lions), who likes fake bacon and bootie calls with a barrister, and who acts as the audience’s point person for learning what all the others take for granted; a cynical old hand (Rhys Thomas) who thinks he’s smarter than everyone including himself; and a gay Scottish paramedic with too many gadgets and who likes bootie calls from guys he meets on the Internet. The story is mainly told from their point of view, with the first episode, Up, Horny, Down, focusing on their post-traumatic stress responses after a particularly upsetting call-out, as well as on their relationships with doctors, firefighters, police, their boss, the hospital counsellor as well as themselves and the job.

In contrast to a lot of procedural shows, this does actually feel quite accurate, with people behaving like real fallible people and road traffic accidents actually being quite gruesome. There’s darkness as well: this is, after all, an episode in which the main characters are having to process the possible death of someone they rescued, through first elation, then sexual arousal then depression – hence Up, Horny, Down.

But largely the episode goes for laughs. Mostly this is through the sexual encounters of the paramedics, where we get to know what each is like in his spare time. These vignettes are actually pretty funny, even if less true-to-life than the rest of the show.

To counterpoint our mainly male view of things we have the hospital counsellor, who while treated more as a sex object than not, clearly is smarter and knows far more than the paramedics she’s only trying to help. Then there’s their police sergeant friend (Amy Beth Hayes), who’s having to deal with her boundary-ignoring and inappropriate mother, and the possibility that she might not actually be sexually attractive to anyone. The story actually deals with that quite well, with Hayes’ character given respect as a policewoman irrespective of her sexuality and shown to be far more desirable as herself when she’s not actually trying to be sexy. There’s also the hint of a cynical yet touching potential romance between Hayes and Thomas, even if again, the dialogue does have more than a hint of artifice to it.

On the whole, though despite that terrible, terrible acting, we watched this, going from our initial “Oh my God, what have we chosen to watch?” to “Well, that was actually quite good” over the course of the episode. Worth at least a second viewing, I reckon.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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