‘Hoxton hip in satirist’s sights’ read the headline in early December to a rather un-assuming newspaper column: the first news on the new comedy from Chris Morris, a man dubbed “Britain’s one true satirist”. The revelation that ‘Nathan Barley’ was to be a sitcom surprised many. What could a format more associated with canned laughter and a string of painfully un-funny BBC1 Friday night failures possibly hold for the man who once persuaded D.J Dr.Fox to proclaim on national television that paedophiles had more in common genetically with crabs than human beings?
Based on a fictional show entitled ‘Cunt’, from Charlie Brooker’s website ‘TV Go Home’, the genius of ‘Nathan Barley’ lay not in it’s concept (though a savaging of Shoreditch-dwelling fashionistas was surely long overdue), or it’s presentation (at times ‘Nathan Barley’ was an audio-visual overload, the very program you suspect an ‘ironic’ mullet-sporting “self-facilitating media node” would make, which perhaps was the point), but in the scathing detail, etched with such care into every line of dialogue (“Hens are well dense”), into every poster on the walls of ‘Dazed And Confused’-baiting ‘Sugar Ape’ magazine.
Morris wasn’t under-mining celebrities or politicians for a change; in ‘Nathan Barley’ everyone was a twat, from the self-important ageing ‘musicians’ with barely an ounce of soul, to the style journalists who fail to recognise themselves in pivotal character Dan Ashcroft’s now infamous article ‘The Rise Of The Idiots’. Everywhere there was sickening pretension.
On first viewing this writer watched open-mouthed at the inane characters; to say it was cringe-worthy would be a massive understatement. Not since ‘The Office’ had British comedy been so well observed, and almost dreadfully accurate. Though the series wasn’t the ratings success Channel4 may have hoped for, the cult of Nathan is far from dead. Word of mouth, an eventual DVD release, and hyperbolic articles such as this will ensure ‘Nathan Barley’ lingers longer in the cultural consciousness, and eventually pervades into comedy yet to be written, in much the same way the likes of ‘Jam’ and ‘The Day Today’ are still influencing such contemporary works as ‘Nighty Night’ and FOX News.