British comedy show with each series structured around and focusing on a week in the life of perennial Butt Monkey
Howard Steel (Ben Miller), a hapless publisher who has a knack for complete destruction and self-humiliation. Howard is a pretty nice guy who means well and only wants to help — however, unfortunately for him and those around him, he is the perpetual victim of a cruel and vicious fate that appears determined to actively torment and humiliate him at every opportunity
. As such, throughout the week he constantly faces minor inconveniences that balloon into magnificent crises, is surrounded by people who just seem determined
to misunderstand and / or ruin things for him (and who inevitably think the worst of him or find some way to blame him when everything goes wrong), all of whom seem to actively conspiring to make his life far more difficult than it has to be, commits acts of clumsiness or thoughtlessness that escalate into magnificent acts of destruction, and tells innocently-meant little white lies that become torturous acts of deception just waiting to collapse in on him
. And all of these are destined to backfire on Howard at exactly the worst moment for him personally.
It doesn't help that Howard's loving but long-suffering and short-tempered fiancee / wife Mel (Sarah Alexander) is blessed with a low tolerance for Howard's antics, and that her father Dick (Geoffrey Whitehead), a snobby High Court judge who detests Howard immensely and would be inclined to think the worst of him at the best of times, often finds himself in particular suffering directly from Howard's misfortunes and thus refuses to give Howard the benefit of the doubt in any situation. It also doesn't help that Howard is incapable of explaining himself without inevitably making things sound much, much worse than they are.
Two series have been made so far; the first dealt with the run-up to Howard's wedding to Mel, and the second with the run-up to the birth of Howard and Mel's first child. A three-part Christmas Episode
was broadcast in 2006.
Provides examples of
- Armored Closet Gay: Fraser.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For all that Mel gets very short-tempered with Howard's antics, it's quite clear that she really does love him.
- Black Comedy Rape
- Butt Monkey: Howard.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Almost every little thing that Howard does wrong is guaranteed to backfire on him eventually. For added 'hideously unfair' value, however, even things that Howard doesn't do wrong are guaranteed to backfire on him, as no one around him seems inclined to give him the benefit of any doubt whatsoever.
- The Chew Toy: Howard.
- Cringe Comedy
- Determinator: Say what you will, Howard is determined to get through the chaos he's surrounded by to reach his final goal (his wedding, the birth of his child, a Christmas party) — even when his current course of action is spectacularly misguided.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Howard has to get through a completely shitty week and try to right different wrongs, but he always ends up with a happy ending. The first season ends with his marriage, the second with the birth of his daughter.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Each season follows Howard through what is, basically, The Worst Week Of His Life.
- Fawlty Towers Plot: Likewise, if Howard tells a lie — even a small one — it's going to get way out of hand.
- How Did That Get in There?: Howard tries it. Naturally, it doesn't work.
- Jerkass: Even if he didn't constantly suffer at the hands of Howard's bad luck, Mel's father would still be an insufferably pompous, humourless and snobbish Dick.
- Also Dom, Howard's best man.
- Kafka Komedy
- Meaningful Name: Howard Steel never gives up, no matter how much of a bad idea what he's doing is or how attractive giving up looks at that particular moment. His father-in-law Dick is a mean-spirited, humourless and pompous jerk (or a complete dick, to put it another way).
- No Sympathy: Everyone else towards Howard.
- Stalker with a Crush: In the first season, Howard acquires one when a co-worker he had a one-night stand with years before starts swearing undying love and tries to sabotage his wedding. Naturally, this leads everyone to think he's been having an affair.
- The Stoic: Unlike her husband and daughter, Mel's mother Angela is surprisingly patient with Howard, as she realises that he means well and is just staggeringly unlucky. Her patience isn't infinite, though.