I'll freely admit, when I first saw How do you want me?, it wasn't at all what I was expecting. That's mainly because - given that it was written by Simon Nye, most famous for Men Behaving Badly, I was expecting more of the same: vulgar, crude, riotously funny.
How Do You Want Me? is something entirely different. "Black comedy" doesn't even come close to describing it. In places it's nothing less than savage and vicious. At one point, Ian (Dylan Moran) tells a rather rude joke to his wife Lisa's (Charlotte Coleman) family. The next day, his brother-in-law Dean (Peter Serafinowicz, in a piece of perfect casting) beats him up. In the same episode, Ian's father-in-law, Astley (Frank Finlay) offers him £20,000 to divorce Lisa and leave the village.
So what it isn't, is a laugh-a-minute sitcom. Indeed, it's probably something of a trendsetter for being shot on location and featuring no audience laughter track - it preceded Spaced, with which it shares two cast members (Serafinowicz and Mark Heap) and a degree of visual style, by a year.
But what it *is*, is so much more. It's a beautifully characterised piece, in which Nye portrays the realities of village life - the sort of life in which Ian, having set up shop as the local photographer, then expects to be able to go to the local library and withdraw a pile of books of photography instruction without the whole village knowing about it the next day. The piece is acted to perfection...almost. Peter Serafinowicz plays Dean with a savage ferocity, Frank Finlay steals almost every scene he's in, Emma Chambers, Mark Heap and Clive Merrison shine in their lesser roles. The late Charlotte Coleman - whose premature death in 2001 is alleged to have scuppered future series (unlikely, as the second series seems to reach a natural ending) is on top of her form.
Dylan Moran is somewhat harder to deal with. He plays Ian more-or-less as himself - a slightly shambling, slurring, apparently drunk (or stoned) individual, putting little emotion into his lines, and giving no apparent indication that he's reacting to the characters around him. Having said that, he's worth bearing with, because after a couple of watchings, his idiosyncratic performance becomes more bearable. But he initially comes across as the weak link in the chain.
All things considered, though, I regard this as a wonderful piece of television, and well worth watching.