Well, it beats being in jail

THE dictionary describes happiness as "the feeling of being happy". More problematic is defining Happiness the TV series.

It's easier to say what it's not. Not just a comedy. Not just a drama. Not a sit-com. Cold Feet, but shorter. Friends, with older characters and minus the canned laughter. Coupling, without the smut.

The presence of The Fast Show's Paul Whitehouse - as both star and co-writer (with David Cummings) - suggests something much funnier than Happiness actually is.

That's not to say there aren't amusing lines and situations. As during Neela's first kiss with Danny. Their lips lock and she runs her fingers through his hair, only to remove her hand covered with the black dye covering his bald patch.

I also liked Kathy Burke playing herself. Or rather playing Kathy Burke the prima donna, which she isn't in real life. When the young sound engineer in the recording studio had the cheek to address her as Kathy, she told them in no uncertain terms: "Miss Burke to you, you student ponce. Only me mates call me Kaffy and you aren't me mates."

Danny's friends were worried when Danny declared that he was "staying clear of the booze and having an early night". The entreaties of his pals changed his mind but, as he sat in the pub, he declared: "I'm drinking it but I'm not enjoying it."

The dinner date in a restaurant set up with Neela was much the same, particularly when warning her off the dangers of eating shellfish with tales of vomiting and puking at both ends.

Friends Sid and Charlie had their own troubles, when not watching Nigella Lawson's cookery show on the telly. Charlie (played by Johnny Vegas) wondered what they'd got to look forward to, noting a recent survey that "single men in their fifties are among society's most disadvantaged groups - they are single, divorced, skint because of alimony, alcohol. They spend most of their time drunk and alone".

Sid looked on the bright side. "Next month they'll publish another one that says being a lonely, divorced, middle-aged alcoholic is good for you," he said.

They should be thankful they're not in jail. Whereas Bad Girls and Porridge make life inside look almost bearable, Buried belongs to the genre of prison stories that make being banged up look like a living hell.

Lennie James is Lee, newly put behind bars and protesting his innocence. Hearing that his appeal isn't being allowed, on top of running out of 'phone cards to call home, adds up to a pretty rotten start.

The warders, at least, seem reasonable. "Don't be afraid to come over to the wing office and talk to someone. We're not just here to lock the doors," one screw told him.

If he can deal with the bullying, drugs and lack of privacy, he might just survive. He can, at least, console himself that, unlike Danny and his friends, he doesn't have to bother about getting a date.