This is the beginning of the funniest series on UK TV since “Fawlty Towers”. It is likely to keep the belt for a very long time. The 7 episodes were a collision between two very bright, angry and individual writers who had something to say about the increasingly moronic young scenesters of new media in the Shoreditch/Hoxton enclave of East London. Having brilliantly satirised these bastards Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker have moved on to other projects. It is fortuitous that the series rewards repeated viewing as this comedy was never going to be the British “Friends”.
Truman Capote possessed an acute and accurate sense of social milieu. In New York he identified the “talented untalented”, drawn magnetically to the city and “neurotically feeding on the fringes” as they attempt to “make a dream”. They clustered together, reassured by a constant chatter about their creativity while creating precisely nothing. More than 40 years after Capote, Morris and Brooker saw a dumbed-down 21st century London where this emptiness was endemic and celebrated. As the tag-line for the series said, “the idiots are winning”.
Nathan Barley had originated as a “self-facilitating media node” in Brooker’s innovative website http://www.tvgohome.com/ . The transfer to the small screen changed Barley from a trustafarian former public schoolboy to a younger, less assured figure. He drinks smoked salmon coffee, adopts the ridiculous “geek pie” hairstyle in imitation of his reluctant role model of cool, Dan Ashcroft. The lack of awareness, the sense of entitlement the size of David Cameron’s (coincimental !) remain. Barley is a twat but a dark, dangerous twat.
Dan Ashcroft is played by Julian Barrett off of the Mighty Boosh who, in 2005, were rock and roll comedy as good as anyone. Ashcroft, a journalist for “Sugar Ape” (say it quickly), is our disdainful guide through this parade of grotesques. He is not just an observer and commentator. His own lack of conviction can lead him into an investigation of the “stray” scene, straight-on-straight gay sex, humiliation and hilarity ensues. There are times when he makes the scene with the worst of them. This clip concerns the “artist” 15Peter20 who photographs urinating celebrities.
Having lived for 20 years in London with a wide range of cultural interests I had encountered my fair share of idiots. The guy behind me at the Institute of Contemporary Arts loudly discussing “his” film before admitting no-one would ever see it…I should have punched him in the cock. The person who “knew” that I enjoyed my job because I was surrounded by the good vibrations from the self-help psychobabble New Age books my employer distributed…she had no cock but …why I oughta ! I always kept Capote in mind. These people were just predictable and to be avoided. I worked on the conversion of Victorian warehouses into offices for the new industries lampooned in “Nathan Barley”. One night we surreptitiously entered a new art gallery and hung the paint encrusted sweater of one of the labourers on the wall…funny.
I am not going to analyse or explain “Nathan Barley”. In Biology you dissect something and the only sure thing is that you end up with a dead thing. The Net friendly text-speak of the series is so, so funny. You do not have to know the London of these arty with a capital F fools because they are proliferating. Like much of the comedy of Chris Morris “Nathan Barley” can be seen as dark, provocative and ahead of its time.I can only say that Chris Morris (of whom more later) has already a place at the High Table of British comedy whatever he creates in the future. He is up there with the Goons, Cook & Moore & the Pythons. Believe.
The night we watched the whole series on DVD was a genuinely exciting occasion. “Nathan Barley” is around on your computer. You are not one of the idiots, you know what to do. Go to the Y-Tube & type in the title.
OK I’m out of here. Peace and Fucking. Oh, I must stop saying that.