Danny (Martin Freeman) is a northern bloke working in a DIY store who owes some money to some dodgy people. To appease his debtors, Danny agrees to steal some copper piping. Whilst doing so one night, he bumps into fashion journalist Veronica (Rachel Stirling). The reasons for her being out there on this dark stormy evening aren’t clear, but the upshot is that both of them are standing on the same metal grid when lightning strikes – and they are both knocked unconscious.
When Danny wakes up, he’s in hospital, surrounded by worried friends and family he doesn’t recognise…because he’s in the body of Veronica. Which means that somewhere out there, Veronica is in the body of Danny. It’s that old cinema staple, the body swap.
As Danny (in female form) is taken home to Veronica’s flash pad by concerned husband Jay (Paterson Joseph), he tries desperately to fend off Jay’s attempts to re-connect as a couple (“You’re not connecting with me, you pervert!”) whilst he tracks down Veronica. Meanwhile, Veronica (in Danny’s body) has amnesia, and is wandering the streets saying that she doesn’t know who she is, but she’s pretty sure she used to be a woman.
Billed as a comedy, Boy Meets Girl is more light-hearted drama, a sort of Vice Versa meets Tootsie, complete with its own 'Oops I’m in the wrong body' background jingle and all the other predictable angles you wish such a programme would avoid but know it probably won’t. High heels as instruments of torture? Check. Angry reaction to sexual harassment and chauvinism? Check. Bloke’s inexplicable inability to put on a bra? Check.
But if the gender gap details aren’t exactly original, the class divide angle is more interesting. Danny is a working class lad, an idealistic, activist type who lives in a crummy flat, so it is interesting to see him supplanted into this new sophisticated world, as a paid up member of the tribe, and see how vacuous he finds it.
Again, though, this isn’t exactly subtle – Jay and Veronica’s friends are pretentious arseholes and the overstated glamour of their lives is ridiculous. I have less problem believing that two people can swap bodies than I do that Veronica can live that life on a regional beauty journalist’s salary. But the set up does provide a good opportunity to showcase the differences between, not only their lives, but their perceptions of each other's lives, and indeed their own. It might make for insightful social commentary if handled well.
The hardest task is Stirling’s – she is, after all, pretending to be a woman who is pretending to be a man who is pretending to be a woman. She does a great job. Her hunched posture, awkward gait and defensive body language are spot on and she entirely convinces as she drinks pop, slurps cereal and rails against the shallow nature of her glamorous life.
So far, so mildly entertaining, but there haven’t been a great deal of chuckles in the series to warrant its comedy tag.
My bet is that the humour will come from Freeman, who hasn’t appeared much so far. At the beginning of the series it was a shock to see Freeman as a swaggering Manc bloke but I rather liked the contrast to all his bewildered boy next door roles. Alas, lightning stuck and now we only get this blokey Freeman in voiceover. From here on in, he’s playing a woman trapped in a man’s body. Just as Stirling has a boyish quality which lends itself to her role, so Freeman is in touch with his feminine side, so no doubt he’ll make a great job of the alternate scenario. But we need to see more of him next episode, please. His Simon Schama comment last episode provided me with the only laugh out loud of the series so far.
It will be interesting to see whether the series improves from here. Despite the clichés, it does have potential. At the end of the last episode Danny had teamed up with two of his DIY store colleagues (as Veronica) to help track down the ‘missing’ Danny. But Danny has a crush on colleague Fiona (Angela Griffin) who seems to be developing a thing for Danny – but whilst he’s in the body of Veronica. Plus, at the end of episode two, Danny decided he had no choice but to sleep with Jay. Some twisted romantic entanglements are sure to follow.
As far as the gender gap is concerned, there’s nothing here we don’t already know.
“Women are so complicated. Men are just horrible leering idiots,” Danny-in-Veronica’s-body says at one point to Veronica’s best friend (whose husband, incidentally, Veronica was sleeping with.)
“But women are…I don’t know and I am one!” Proof that, even if we swapped bodies, things couldn’t be any more complicated between the sexes than they already are.
Boy Meets Girl, ITV1, Friday 15 May, 9pm