With the new series Colin From Accounts — streaming on Paramount+ following a Foxtel/Binge debut in its native Australia — creator/stars Patrick Brammall and Harriet Dyer have set themselves possibly one of the most difficult challenges in the history of romantic comedies.
How do you make a show in which, within the first five minutes, the main characters are responsible for running over an adorable dog and, by the end of eight episodes, have the audience liking those characters, if not necessarily rooting for their coupling?
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The answer comes down to clever writing and the chemistry between Brammall and Dyer, who are married in addition to their collaborations here. Colin From Accounts never wholly shakes its “They ran over a dog!” bleakness — the dog, it should be emphasized clearly, is mostly OK — nor does it wholly break out from the rom-com conventions it’s so keenly aware of. But it’s a show that very swiftly establishes a wide emotional range, as well as a capable and deep ensemble around its two leads.
I said “First five minutes,” but Colin From Accounts is actually far more efficient than that, and efficiency may be the series’ greatest strength.
Within three minutes, we’ve been introduced by Ashley (Dyer) and Gordon (Brammall), as well as the dog they’ll eventually call “Colin.” Ashley and Gordon are, separately, alone and sloppy, hung up on past relationships and running behind on their day’s schedule. Colin is poorly monitored and running loose, sneaking out of an improperly closed gate. Gordon is driving, and he and Ashley engage in a little good-natured flirting at a crosswalk. Ashley, for reasons that are never completely consistent with her character in the rest of the season, half-flashes him as she passes by. Slightly chuffed and slightly distracted, Gordon… hits poor Colin, which he probably would have done anyway, because Colin is very tiny and very uninterested in traffic regulations.
Ashley and Gordon are instantly concerned and, despite not knowing each other at all, they rush to a vet, who happens to be named Yvette (Annie Maynard) — “Yvette the Vet”? — and happens to be Gordon’s ex. Colin will be OK, but he will require a special set of wheels and he will become a special-needs dog. Since he has no collar or tags, the choice is either that Gordon and/or Ashley take care of Colin or he’ll be put to sleep; because they’re somewhat good people and because it’s an amusing variation on a standard meet-cute, they opt for the former. It’s a thin premise, but darned if it isn’t a premise.
Fortunately, it’s actually closer to a bait-and-switch on the premise. Colin — a border terrier, if such things matter to you — is a key catalyst in the action of Colin From Accounts, but he’s never again jeopardized and the real premise of the show eventually materializes.
Like so many rom-com lead characters, Gordon and Ashley would never have met at all without their meet-cute, and whatever attraction there is between them, there’s a bigger issue — namely, the age gap between them. Colin is somewhere in his 40s and Ashley is 29 and initially that means that she doesn’t get his old man references — When Harry Met Sally, butlers traditionally being named Jeeves — but the chasm becomes wider as things progress.
In the realm of media representations, we’re fully inoculated against being shocked by an age gap this moderate, so it wasn’t a thing that I immediately registered as a crisis. Gordon, who co-owns a new Sydney microbrewery, is a bit of a man-child and, despite the gray in his beard, I could have pegged him for anywhere between 35 and 50. Random flashing of strangers aside, Ashley comes across as sterner stuff, since she’s training to be a doctor — plus Dyer could be sisters with Isla Fisher, and since Fisher is in her mid-40s, Ashley could be anywhere between 25 and who-knows-how-old. It doesn’t look weird, but by the 50th time Colin From Accounts points out the difference, you just accept, “OK, this is a problem” in the same way that in Max’s Starstruck, you finally accept the main couple might be doomed because of a gap in their fame even if virtually nothing in the supposed A-list movie star’s life or persona really screams “Celebrity!”
Starstruck is one of several recent convention-tweaking TV rom-coms that Colin From Accounts swiftly reminded me of. The stuff with Gordon and his co-workers — Genevieve Hegney’s Chiara and Michael Logo’s Brett — is very much adjacent to the workplace material in Apple TV+’s Platonic. Dyer’s Isla Fisher vibes and the Aussie settings made me frequently think of Peacock’s Wolf Like Me, only nobody’s a werewolf. At various points, my notes mention Netflix’s Feel Good and Amazon’s Catastrophe and Hulu’s This Way Up. This points to a couple things: TV has yielded a surprising number of really decent rom-coms in recent years, and Colin From Accounts — though not as good as the peaks in this genre — is part of that pack.
Colin From Accounts is least interesting when it leans into familiar sitcom/genre situations. Conflict in several episodes connects to a secret that Gordon keeps from Ashley for absolutely no discernible reason. I could go a lifetime without ever watching another episode hinging on somebody trying to delete an inopportune text or message from a partner’s phone before they open it. And when Colin From Accounts finally commits to illustrating the generational divide between its main characters, it relies on everybody leaning into stereotypes that had never been relevant previously.
If the things that push the plotlines forward in Colin From Accounts are either tired or, in the case of the initial animal endangerment, unsympathetic, the show still works because, in their imperfections, Ashley and Gordon are very relatable — as are the stars. Brammall, a good mix of Seth Rogen in Platonic and Rob Delaney in Catastrophe, captures the fatigue inherent in Peter Pan syndrome. He doesn’t want to grow up, but some days it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, and Brammall walks that wry tightrope well. Dyer, so excellent in NBC’s deserved-better American Auto, makes Ashley just a bit flighty and immature, but never incapable. As the show progresses and reveals Ashley and Gordon’s dark baggage — again, I promise neither is a werewolf — it and its stars make the veins of drama, sometimes really bleak, feel earned. Still, Colin From Accounts is at its best when its protagonists are just bantering and riffing off each other, being light and flirty in that way that only two people who have nearly killed a dog together can be.
Ashley and Gordon settle quickly into their voices, but what gives Colin From Accounts a lot of additional room to play — a second season has already been ordered — is how readily the supporting characters and actors are given satisfying material. Hegney, as Gordon’s longtime friend who’s beginning to show impatience with his childishness, and Helen Thomson, as Ashley’s clingy mother, are especially good, while Logo, Maynard and several others capitalize on the show’s generosity of punchline distribution as well.
As yes, the two dogs who play Colin are exceptional. Don’t worry! Colin weathers his unfortunate accident and is a source of laughs and sympathy, plus his name is introduced amusingly and he gets a solid payoff later in the series. Don’t hold it against Ashley and Gordon that they got briefly distracted, and don’t hold it against Colin From Accounts that it puts a pup in danger before you’ve learned its heroes’ names. There’s plenty to enjoy once Colin and your empathy recover.
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