The contents of this blog are a good indication that I prefer my television programmes to be old (and preferably in black and white!) but occasionally I do like to haul myself into the 21st Century. One such trip to the modern world revolves around People Just Do Nothing, a BBC comedy series about a pirate radio station called Kurupt FM which launched in 2012.
The story of how People Just Do Nothing was created is not an uncommon one in the internet age. It first surfaced in 2010 as a YouTube series called Wasteman TV, this caught the attention of the BBC who commissioned a pilot in 2012. The pilot, along with the first series, aired on the IPlayer before receiving a terrestrial screening. This is an increasingly common practice (Car Share, Class) and subsequent series of People Just Do Nothing followed the same route, debuting via the IPlayer first.
What’s really interesting is that none of the cast had ever acted or written anything before the YouTube series. They carried over their improvised and collaborative working practices to the BBC series, although they also began to script the show beforehand (Steve Stamp, who is the drug-addled Steves, may play a relatively minor character but is a driving force behind the writing). The mockumentary aspect of the show has led to inevitable comparisons with The Office, but I can also see parallels (although probably not intentional) with the forgotten Operation Good Guys (1997 – 2000), a mock fly-on-the-wall series which predated The Office, but is now all but forgotten (if Ricky Gervais and co hadn’t drawn some inspiration from it though, I’d be amazed).
When the mockumentary format is done well (as in Operation Good Guys and, of course, People Just Do Nothing) it’s a wonderful way of exposing the weaknesses and contradictions of the characters. This is evident right from the start (in episode one, series one – Secret Location) as Grindah’s (Allan Mustafa) impressive façade is slowly whittled away piece by piece. He’s the ultimate no-hoper, trapped in a world of delusion where he believes himself to be the main man of an influential pirate radio station. But in reality the station’s reach is pitifully small and he’s also got problems with the neighbours – who don’t appreciate the noise. He enlists the help of Chabuddy G (Asim Chaudhry) who agrees to soundproof their studio, that is if he can find enough egg-boxes. Unsurprisingly, it’s a botched-job.
The relationship between Grindah and DJ Beats (Hugo Chegwin), his loyal (albeit rather put-upon) right hand man is a key one. In the second episode, Angel’s Birthday, Beats has the chance of a job – at Tie One – and enlists Chabuddy’s help. Chabuddy tells him to grab the goat by the horns and then to penetrate the goat ….
Each episode is packed with killer lines and this one’s no different as Chabuddy admits that his homemade Polish Vodka has a few teething problems – literally, as people lose their teeth after drinking his corrosive brew. Apart from Beats’ big chance at the tie shop, Grindah’s daughter Angel is celebrating her fifth birthday. Alas, he gives Chabuddy the job of organising the party and is shocked that all the chocolates have a rather phallic air. “Everything’s cock-related. It’s my little girl’s birthday birthday party and there’s cocks everywhere.”
Series two opens with Grindah and Beats on the up – listening figures are well into double figures. Grindah and his girlfriend Miche (Lily Brazier) are preparing for their daughter’s christening, but who is Grindah going to pick to be Angel’s godfather? It’ll either be Beats or Decoy (Daniel Sylvester Woodford). Chegwin’s downcast face when he isn’t automatically chosen is a lovely comic moment as is the way he cheers up after Grindah tells him he’s reached the final.
Lily Brazier is so good as the self-obsessed Miche. She’s the recipient of many wonderful lines, one of my favourites comes from the first episode of series one where she claims that she’d be totally lost without Grindah – the last time he was away the television was stuck on Dave and she couldn’t change it. That sounds grim ….
By series three, Miche’s proposed marriage to Grindah causes ructions, Chabuddy’s money-making schemes continue to misfire in spectacular fashion whilst Beats’ girlfriend Roche (Ruth Bratt) gives birth.
People Just Do Nothing‘s profile has slowly built over the last few years. That they were nominated for a 2016 BAFTA (for best scripted comedy) is a good indication of how the series is moving into the mainstream (it lost to Peter Kay’s Car Share). As the show has developed during the last few years it’s been able to develop and deepen the core characters – the excellent ensemble cast has responded by delivering nuanced performances of increasing subtlety.
People Just Do Nothing is fast becoming a classic sitcom. Like all the best examples of this genre, it presents us with a group of characters forced together by circumstances (work, family, etc) and then chips away at their relationships bit by bit. With a fourth series due to air next year there still seems to be plenty of scope left in the lives of the Kurupt FM crew.
Dazzler’s three disc set, like their Brian Pern release, has a generous selection of bonus features. Nine episodes feature commentaries (all the episodes from the first two series) and there’s a package of deleted scenes and new features. On average each of these mini-features lasts around five minutes or less, favourites include Chabuddy’s guided tour of Hounslow and the terrible moment when Steves gets lost in Wickes. The full list is as follows –
Chabuddy Guide to Hounslow
Grindah’s Prison Stories
DJ Steves’ Alien Encounters
Lost In Wickes
Inspiration (Grindah & Beats)
Valentine’s Day Set
Eight Hour Set
People Just Do Nothing is released by Dazzler Media on the 7th of November 2016. RRP £29.99.