UK TV review: People Just Do Nothing Season 4
James R | On 15, Aug 2017
The boys are back in town. And by town, we mean Brentford. And by boys, we mean, well, exactly that. The radio pirates of People Just Do Nothing have stubbornly refused to grow up throughout the first three seasons of the BBC’s hilarious mockumentary. But now, as it returns for a fourth run just after winning a BAFTA, there’s a maturity in the air that sees the sitcom sailing to new heights.
Co-created by Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin and Asim Chaudry, People Just Do Nothing has thrived on its central trio’s ability to inhabit their idiotic characters with equal parts stupidity and loud shouting of garage music. While their one-liners have always been sharp, their beats catchy, and their lyrics absurdly witty, it’s their sincerity that has made them instantly sympathetic, as we find ourselves rooting for their small successes in life – even if that’s just increasing Kurupt FM’s reach a little beyond the car park in their West London housing estate.
But over the years, there have been increasing glimpses of self-awareness, small flashes of understanding from them that things aren’t going to plan, or that their best mate isn’t the hero they once thought. In the case of MC Grindah (Mustafa), it’s shock at the way that DJ Beats (Chegwin) has unexpectedly started to put his newborn baby ahead of Kurupt FM. For Beats, it’s concern for Mustafa, as his dedication to the station has ruined his engagement to well-meaning hairdresser Miche (Lily Brazier), and left him alone and increasingly out of it.
Miche, too, has become a main character in her own right, as she and Angel (Olivia Jasmine Edwards) get more and more screentime – here dedicated to her attempts to move on from Grindah, mostly by talking about how much she’s over Grindah. The presence of kids, from Beats’ baby to Miche’s Angel, has been a central part of the show’s gradual escalation of emotional stakes; we can now see the consequences of our protagonists’ daft actions all the more clearly, not to mention laugh appallingly at the inappropriate way that Chabuddy G (Chaudry) uses a baby-shopping trip to hit on all the single mums around. At the same time, all this new life only reinforces the sadness of Steves (Steve Stamp, who stole so many scenes in Season 3) losing his nan.
Season 4’s opener sees Kurupt FM face a new threat in a rival pirate station, Kold FM, who play the same music as Kurupt, but somehow do it better. Attempts to trash-talk their opponent over the phone are predictably laugh-out-loud incompetent, but there’s a darkness to the BBC Three comedy that has never felt so explicit, as Grindah seizes the opportunity to distract attention away from the fact that he’s the biggest risk to Kurupt FM’s future – or the fact that he’s secretly started doing coke.
Mustafa is superb in this season, even growing out his hair from that one haircut Miche knows how to do – a sign that things really are out of control. Wild-eyed and frantic, he’s more deluded than ever, in a way that’s now faintly tragic, rather than merely endearing. The other cast member’s deadpan reactions to his behaviour, never once losing sight of the mockumentary format, only brings out the juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy. It’s that ability to bring in such complex emotions to an Alan Partridge-esque story of pirate radio DJs, who are friends with someone who tried to launch a Champagne Steamroom in a disused warehouse, that shows you just how far People Just Do Nothing has come: from sketches of silliness to supporting characters who are fleshed out in their own right, we’re now not only laughing at and with these people, and sharing in their minor downfalls, but we’re devastated by their failed relationships and shocked by their drug addictions. The show has always mixed heart and humour, but there’s an added gravity to this urban sitcom’s fourth season that only justifies the programme’s BAFTA win even more. The boys are back – and People Just Do Nothing is better than ever.
People Just Do Nothing: Season 1 to 5 are available on BBC iPlayer until June 2019. Season 1 to 4 are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.