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'Colin' the dog brings 2 — no wait, 3 —lonely hearts together in this fetching series

Ashley and Gordon (Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall) bond over an injured border terrier in <em>Colin from Accounts.</em>
Lisa Tomasetti
Ashley and Gordon (Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall) bond over an injured border terrier in Colin from Accounts.

For most of the 20th century, audiences loved romantic comedies, from Cary Grantwooing Katharine Hepburn, to Ted Danson and Shelley Long bickering on Cheersuntil they finally, inevitably fell in love.

Sad to say, this upbeat genre — now direly termed the "rom-com" — has fallen badly out of fashion, with many younger viewers finding it as passé as black-and-white movies. If you love romantic comedies as I do, you know it's hard to find a good new one.

That's why I happily recommend Colin from Accounts, a new Australian show on the Paramount+ streaming service. Created by its stars, the real-life husband-wife team of Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, this eight-part series touches all the bases of the traditional romantic comedy, yet it never feels musty. Brimming with life and honesty, it's also exceedingly funny.

Set in Sydney, Colin from Accounts centers on two likably lonely souls: a mid-40s micro-brewer, Gordon (Brammall) and Ashley (Dyer), a hard-drinking 29-year-old medical student who's just broken off with her boyfriend. They share a modern spin on the classic meet cute: Gordon is driving to work when he stops to let Ashley cross the road.

A bit hungover, Ashley thanks him by flashing one of her breasts. The distracted Gordon pulls forward and hits a dog that's been running free. The two take the injured border terrier, which has no ID tag, to the nearest vet, where they are horrified to learn that treatment will cost them thousands of dollars.

As you will surely guess, this accident launches them into a relationship. Initially bound by the dog, which they name Colin from Accounts, they gradually discover a more intimate connection. But not before the usual delays.

We spend time with their friends — from Ashley's even harder-partying pal Megan, to Gordon's cluelessly ribald bartender Brett — and watch the two stumble through adventures that take them from hospital death beds and inadvertent sexting, to drunken revels and wrenching family encounters. Although they don't recognize it at first, we see how well they click.

Now, if you're like me, you may think of Australian comedy as being a tad, well, broad. And in truth, Colin from Accounts is not without its share of flatulence and poop jokes – pretty funny ones, actually. Yet the show never embraces the gleeful vulgarity of the early Judd Apatowcomedies. In fact, the show is striking for its variation of tone.

The bawdy stuff is folded into a storyline that grows deeper — and subtler – as it goes along. Even as they banter, Gordon and Ashley come to know each other's fears and vulnerabilities. In a scene reminiscent of the great Christmas episode of The Bear, Gordon attends Ashley's birthday party at her mother's and discovers the pain of her childhood.

Brammall and Dyer are very appealing actors. Bearded and bright-eyed, he gives Gordon a menschy tenderness that shines through his ironic humor. We want him to find happiness. And Dyer may be even better as Ashley. She has a comic verve that recalls Julie Hagerty and Leslie Mann, yet her tired eyes suggest something more — a woman whose sensitivity and intelligence can be self-defeating.

And then there's Colin from Accounts – the dog, I mean, complete with the wheels that do the work of his back legs. I'm pleased to report that the show doesn't use him cutely or milk him for easy laughs. You won't go Awww. The show is smarter than that. Justifying his title role, Colin from Accounts is more than just a dog. He's another wounded, big-hearted creature looking for someone to love.

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

John Powers
John Powers is the pop culture and critic-at-large on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He previously served for six years as the film critic.