Written by and starring Dan Clark, How Not To Live Your Life is a British comedy programme following 29-year old Don Danbury, a dysfunctional
Jerkass dickhead orphan who can barely look after himself and is very close to losing his job. As luck would have it, Don inherits his grandmother's house by default with instructions to 'sort out your life and stop being such a dickhead'. Initially believing it is free, Don is informed that the inheritance is conditional; he must pay his grandmother's mortgage if he wishes to keep the house. Soon after moving in, Don meets his grandmother's old carer, Eddie Singh, who, even after learning that she is dead, continues to look after the house (and Don), expecting nothing in return.
In order to help pay the mortgage, Don must take in a lodger; in a twist of fate the first (normal) person to answer the ad is his high school crush, Abby. Unfortunately for him, Abby also has a boyfriend, Karl (who Don immediately calls Kockface), who spends much of his time round the Danbury household antagonising Don. Much of the first series revolves around this love triangle, which ends in the two splitting up but Abby going travelling to 'get her head together', leaving Don alone.
In light of this, Don must take on another lodger in Series 2 and settles for mature student Samantha, who joins the main cast. Also included in this is former recurring character, the next-door neighbour Mrs. Treacher, who is upgraded as Eddie becomes her full-time carer.
The first series received mixed reviews from critics, citing the female lead didn't have much of a personality but generally liking the humour. Things improved in the second series with the introduction of Samantha and upgrading Mrs. Treacher from recurring character to main cast.
This show provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc The end of series 1 saw Karl moving in, which appeared to be a set-up for the next series until the departure of Sinead Moynihan necessitated a rethink.
- Back for the Finale: After being Put on a Bus between the first and second series, Abby returns in the Christmas special that ends the series.
- Bastard Girlfriend: Jenny, though nobody believes Don until she starts beating him up in the pub to When A Man Loves A Woman.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Don is shown to be very good at selling things (e.g. property in series 1 episode 5), but is content to remain at his cushy job in the art gallery.
- British Brevity: Three series and one special, with only 20 episodes between them, roughly the length of a single season of a typical US sitcom.
- Camp Gay: Jamie.
- Camp Straight: Don.
- The Caretaker: Eddie needs an idiot to take care of.
- Cool Old Lady: The retired actress who plays the role of Don's dead grandma on the feigned funeral.
- Condescending Compassion: Don's probable motivation for dating a homeless girl.
- Devoted to You: Don to Abby.
- Dominatrix: Flic, who adores how subservient and common Don is.
- Girl of the Week: Despite whoever is Don's flatmate being the prime love interest, he makes his way through a fair amount of women in the series - more than someone like him should.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: If you do even a quarter of what Don does in Real Life, expect to be beaten up. A lot.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Don and Eddie.
- Hidden Depths: Eddie has an inhuman amount of talents and skills which are gradually revealed as the series goes on.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: From series 2 onwards most of the episode titles are Don (verbs) a (noun) or some variation.
- Imagine Spot: Usually a list of bad things that could happen in a given situation.
- Sometimes subverted when the last thing mentioned is repeated for real.
- Jerkass: Don, appropriately nicknamed 'Dickhead' by most of his friends.
- Actually the show is full of them. Karl, Mr. Bitchman, Puss Puss. None of these can hold a candle to Dave Fintsman who, amongst other things, randomly punches Don in the face, treats women with the same respect as a banana peel, cheated on his wife and made Don drink his piss.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Admittedly they are few, but on a few occasions Don does show a more compassionate side. It is revealed on more than one occasion that he values Eddie as a friend and he stops Samantha's student friend from taking advantage while she's drunk at the risk of her finding out he's been hiding in her cupboard.. That latter one may be more Even Evil Has Standards, depending on your view of Don.
- Love Triangle: A type 4 with Abby. It can often switch between a type 4 and 7 when it comes to Don and Sam.
- Manly Gay: The Scary Black Man in the gay bar.
- Mermaid Problem: I'm dating a mermaid...
- Mistaken for Gay: Don mistakes himself for gay.
- Naked People Are Funny: Done pretty much every episode with Don, though that's probably not the only reason...
- Noodle Incident: Apparently, Don's parents died during childbirth. Both of them.
- Only Sane Man: Dickish as he may be, Karl in the first series certainly qualifies. Although Abby is easily sane as well, her fondness for Don seems odd at times given his behaviour, and Karl makes his confusion about it very clear.
- In the second and third series this role is usually taken by Samantha.
- Put on a Bus: Abby after series 1. It was implied she would be brought back for series 3 at the end of series 2 but she remained on the bus. However, The Bus Came Back in the hour-long special that concluded the series.
- Running Gag: 'And shit?!?'
- 'Aaaand *click* Sleep!'
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Eddie and Don. Lampshaded by many of the characters. Don vehemently denies they are a couple on multiple occasions, but he's not helped by Eddie calling Don 'sexy pants'.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Karl. With a K, not a C.
- The Nicknamer: Don, again.
- Teacher/Student Romance: Sam and Brian.
- Romantic False Lead: Brian for Samantha.
- Top Ten List: A good chunk of the show's humour revolves around hypothetical responses to problems that Don faces at the time.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: the gay bar, where even the bartender is shirtless.
- Will They or Won't They?: Don and Abby; they probably won't. Don and Sam; They probably will.