Loosely based on Idris Elba’s childhood, In The Long Run is a charming but largely pedestrian comedy that takes place in the heart of London in 1985. What the show lacks in laugh out loud moments it makes up for with bags of charm and some humorous anecdotes and punchlines that spill over to each episode. The 6 wildly different but culturally relevant episodes about adjusting to life in England play on the fish-out-of-water trope with lead character Valentine adopting this persona. Whilst the show certainly has its share of funny moments, the humour feels a little outdated, exaggerated by the exhaustive list of 80s music accompanying each episode.
In The Long Run follows the lives of the peaceful Easmon family who find their lives suddenly changed with the arrival of their eccentric relative from Sierra Leone, Valentine (Jimmy Akingbola). Guided by Walter (Idris Elba) and Agnes (Madeline Appiah), the pair share their wisdom following their migration years before to try and help Valentine adjust to life in England. Although the set up squarely paints Valentine as the main protagonist here, the focus constantly shifts between the Easmon family and their neighbours Babpipes (Bill Bailey) and Kirsty (Kellie Shirley). There is a little character development and although some of the story spills over to each episode, In The Long Run is a largely episodic comedy with a different plot in each episode.
There’s a good use of continuity here too which comes in the form of Walter reading a letter from his Mother back in Sierra Leone at the beginning of each episode and writing a reply with his thoughts on recent experiences at the end. It’s a nice touch and there’s a real charm to In The Long Run that makes it an easy sitcom to binge, especially given each episode is only 20 minutes long.
It’s a shame then that In The Long Run doesn’t quite have the lasting appeal it could have done as there’s definitely potential here, glimmers of hope in the form of sporadic moments of humour that help to elevate what’s largely a pretty average comedy. The best uses of humour come in the form of brief appearances from the various neighbours in the community and cultural clashes between the Africans and English. One particular episode sees a wedding blend traditional African rituals with a socially awkward Scottish family and this episode in particular is cleverly written and by far the stand out among the six episodes depicted. The rest of the episodes tackle various issues including the fractured relationship between Bagpipes and Kirsty, Agnes learning to drive and Valentine trying to find work. Whilst these scenarios do provide some scope for funny anecdotes, there’s just not enough here to elevate the show beyond a mildly humorous and pedestrian comedy.
When you take the aura around actors like Idris Elba and Bill Bailey out of the equation there’s a real lack of charisma and decent characterisation beyond the over the top caricatures that each person adopts. There’s a little character progression for Babpipes and Kirsty as well as a constant journey of discovery for Valentine but every other character never really grows beyond the personas they initially adopt. Coupled with little to no drama in the episodes, In The Long Run relies heavily on its comedic content to carry it through but there’s just not enough here to make this a memorable or particularly impressive comedy series. Props to Idris Elba for tackling something as ambitious as a comedy series, which is notoriously difficult to get right at the best of times, but although charming and mildly amusing, In The Long Run lacks the comedic firepower to make it anything but a standard comedy offering.