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Boy Meets Girl
cast: Martin Freeman, Rachael Stirling, Marshall Lancaster, Angela Griffin, and Paterson Joseph

creator: David Allison

170 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
ITV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Ian Sales
The body-swap comedy is a subgenre staple, whether the swap is by gender (Switch, It's A Boy/Girl Thing, The Hot Chick), age (Vice Versa, the various incarnations of Freaky Friday) or even social class (Heaven Can Wait). Boy Meets Girl is ITV's leap on the bandwagon and, as the title suggests, it's a swap across genders. Danny Reed (Martin Freeman) works at a DIY superstore, is obsessed with conspiracy theories, and his life is going nowhere. Veronica Burton (Rachael Stirling) is the fashion correspondent for a newspaper, successful and affluent, with a posh flat, a wealthy boyfriend, and an expensive car. Reed and Burton meet by accident at an electricity substation one stormy night. Lightning strikes the pylon, and both are electrocuted. When they come to, Danny is now 'Veronica', and Veronica is now 'Danny'.

'Veronica' is carted off to hospital but 'Danny' seems to have disappeared. For reasons which probably shouldn't be looked into too deeply, 'Veronica' decides to play along as Veronica. While she's obviously not quite herself, neither can 'she' admit to really being Danny. So, while 'Veronica' settles back into 'her' life, 'Danny' wanders about, homeless, trying to discover who 'he' now is and what happened to 'him' - which makes you wonder what exactly the programme is exploring over its four 45-minute episodes...

'Danny' fails to cope, so Boy Meets Girl is not examining male privilege. Veronica works as a fashion journalist, and yet 'Veronica' wants to do some 'proper' investigative reporting... so neither is the programme exploring gender politics. It's almost as if Veronica's job is frivolous and trivial because she is a woman. 'Veronica' seems to settle remarkably quickly into Veronica's life - with Stirling playing 'Veronica' with a bow-legged walk, a gruff voice, and the few single-man habits Danny had displayed before the swap, such as eating copious amounts of cereal and saving the free figurines in the packets. Because the swap happens early in the series, there's no real way of determining how effective Stirling's and Freeman's portrayals of their gender-swapped characters are. Freeman simply plays 'Danny' a bit camp, and considerably more courteous than previously.

Boy Meets Girl is more about a lifestyle swap than a body swap. There's very little about 'Veronica' coming terms with 'her' new gender - 'she' learns how to dress and do 'her' makeup remarkably quickly. And, to add insult to injury, while 'Veronica' successfully avoids having sex with Veronica's boyfriend Jay (Paterson Joseph), it only takes until the end of the third episode before 'she' falls in love with Danny's workmate Fiona (Angela Griffin). 'Veronica', bit by bit, rejects Veronica's life - all the time being pushed deeper into it by Jay and her boss at the newspaper - and then 'she' discovers that Veronica was herself unhappy. 'Veronica' might have quickly seen through the yuppie lifestyle but, it seems, it takes a man in a woman's body to realise the trivial nature of her life.

And yet... Veronica was the achiever; she had the affluent lifestyle. Danny was a no-hoper. But 'Danny' spends much of Boy Meets Girl completely unable to cope with 'his' new situation - and is, in fact, taken advantage of by a predatory homosexual. Why? Surely Veronica should have coped better as 'Danny' than Danny does as 'Veronica'? She had already won herself a good job, a nice flat, an expensive car, and a successful boyfriend. Danny had only his best mate, Pete (Marshall Lancaster), and a desire to go out with Fiona. Pete, incidentally, is the only person who believes that 'Veronica' is Danny. He's also the one who drives the solution of the story, bringing the two together to re-enact the events of the body-swap.

The appeal of the body-swap genre lies in the exploration of the 'other'. There's also an element of mistaken identity, or rather the need to prove identity. The comedy lies in the explorations, and expectations, of the two swapped roles - it's a learning process, and there are usually a great number of assumptions to be painfully overcome. Boy Meets Girl provides some light comic relief, but makes very little of its central premise. An ultra-feminine fashion journalist turns into a ladette; a drifter learns what it's like to be successful. That's about as exploratory as it gets.

A woman in a man's body, according to Boy Meets Girl, is too weak to manage the demands of life as a man. But a man in a woman's body... well, 'she' can add meaning and accomplishment to that woman's life - the affair Veronica was having is abruptly ended, a friend is persuaded to given her philandering husband the boot, Veronica's 'expected' marriage to Jay is overturned, her career is given more weight when 'Veronica' is offered the chance to do some investigative reporting...

A body-swap across genders, even a light comedy, should explore gender politics. That's where the drama and the comedy lies. The fact that Boy Meets Girl fails to do so only proves that very little in gender politics has actually changed.

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