The problem with Romantic Getaway, the new six-part Sky action-comedy about a married couple who turn to crime in order to help them have the child they desperately want, is that it will always and forever be compared to the Coen Brothers 1987 film Raising Arizona, an action-comedy-drama which saw a childless couple steal a quintuplet. Fortunately, based on the film's 7.3 IMDb rating, most viewers might not care too much. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
This complicates things a bit. Sure, 'Romantic Getaway' is a decently entertaining comedy romp with allusions to topical references to fertility treatment and family planning, fronted by two of the country's brightest comedy minds. But the most used GIF on my phone is Holly Hunter, bawling her eyes out, crying 'I love him so mu-hu-hu-huch!' as she cradles her newly-thieved baby. So where does that leave us?
Romantic Getaway follows Alison (Katherine Ryan) and Deacon (Romesh Ranganathan, who also co-wrote the series), a married couple who decide to defraud their boss (a suitably unhinged Johnny Vegas) for £50,000 to pay for IVF. However, in a fit of pique, Deacon decides to add a zero to the end, thereby instigating a fraud investigation that threatens to derail their plans.
Interestingly, the sum of £50,000 hits an irritating narrative sour-spot of being considered enough to pay for additional rounds of IVF, but not enough to arouse any suspicion so long as you obtain it by defrauding Johnny Vegas. This is the first of a kind of running gag – whether it be selling a stolen Ferrari or defying Deacon's mafia contacts – of Alison cleaning up the mess left by Deacon's misplaced, albeit mostly well-intentioned, impulsivity. My favourite running gag of Raising Arizona is that anyone who gets their hands on the baby always turns back to fetch an increasingly tattered copy of Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care, adorably referred to by Nicholas Cage as 'the instructions', but that's beside the point.
Only a small handful of others get caught up in Alison and Deacon's antics – which is likely for the better given the show's just-over-two-hour runtime across all six episodes – but the few supporting characters do provide a glimpse of the couple's complicated family dynamics, which nicely compliment their own desire for one of their own. Alison has a fraught relationship with her sister Esme, who is living with them, while Deacon's Uncle Kethan – the aforementioned mafia contact and undoubtedly the most fun character in the show – is not even a relative (an 'Asian uncle', as described by Deacon). While these characters sometimes seemed a little scaled back, they do usefully embed themselves nicely in the story.
What this cast of characters can also do is, at least momentarily, bring the focus away from the main couple, which is refreshing for a story about IVF. I've reviewed a few of these dramas for BioNews, and I am frustrated when IVF as a narrative device is used to tell a story about the couple themselves, rather than the family, which is more interesting. Instead, you get the miracle-baby-who-saves-the-relationship ending in 'The Art of Waiting' (see BioNews 1073), the relationship-destroyed-by-the-cracks-exposed-by-the-IVF-process ending in 'Two' (see BioNews 1125), and the whatever-the-hell-they-were-getting-at-in-The-Surrogate ending in 'The Surrogate' (see BioNews 1107). All these films undeniably spread awareness of progressive fertility practice and shed light on the debates and issues associated with it, but they also consciously chose to treat the child as an object which, in my admittedly skewed BioNews-writer opinion, potentially misses something important.
While Romantic Getaway teases a couple of these storylines, I felt that it generally succeeded in avoiding getting too sucked in to any single one of them. Of course, Alison and Deacon go through the trials and tribulations experienced by many going through IVF, particularly how the medical burden is skewed towards Alison. We see that Alison and Deacon have far from the perfect relationship, but this baby is not going to be what saves it, which did mean the show was entitled to a somewhat satisfying ending. Not as much as Raising Arizona, though, which left me blubbing at the back of the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square the night before I turned twenty-five.
Romantic Getaway has its pitfalls as a TV show. Its story is contrived, its dynamics are messy, and, while I have no information on the show's budget, I get the impression they had more money than they knew what to do with. However, it had the potential to be thematically lazy, and I'm relieved that, from my perspective, it wasn't. If you like your slapstick gunslinging and car-chasing with a side of poignant meditations on love and family, you're better off with Raising Arizona. Otherwise, Romantic Getaway will do just fine.