We were taught an acronym at university that our lecturer said was the most important set of letters we would ever learn: G.E.T.S., or Good Enough To Steal. Will Self would write this in the margin of whatever book he was reading, and we were encouraged to do the same. Some people believe that no new story can ever be told, so this acronym seems a necessity rather than a misplaced set of morals – regardless, we were also taught that ‘stealing’ something wasn’t enough. It was what you then did with it that counted. The creators of People Just Do Nothing had earmarked The Office boxset with those letters from day dot, but in doing so they’ve gifted these shores with another cultural touchstone.
Their MC Grindah is a nightmarish permutation of the David Brent character that we grew to love, and hate – such is the brilliance, and lasting cultural relevance of the creation that I still regularly hear his name used as a way to describe someone. A garage MC for the pirate radio station he and his cronies run, he believes he is the best out, among other things. He is boastful, faux-confident, and, all in all, a bit of a fucking twat. His total lack of self-awareness, as with Brent, is the thing that saves him – that’s where the comedy is. As with Brent, you believe / hope he can be saved. Allan Mustafa plays Grindah with an unerring pathos.
As with The Office, Grindah would be nothing without his supporting cast. His long suffering girlfriend Miche (Lily Brazier) is the one that bears the brunt of Grindah’s personality – she’s as clueless as they come, quoting self-help passages and then declaring that it’s “From one of her favourite memes.” Grindah’s long suffering right-hand man Beats, AKA Kevin, AKA the subtly superlative Hugo Chegwin, is like chocolate and strawberries when alongside the MC – their interviews are maybe the funniest parts of the show. He too has a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone, so Grindah exploits this. Grindah attempts to dominate him and gets jealous when he makes new friends, when he stays with his girlfriend, when he has a baby. Chegwin brings the humanity to the duo, and his understanding, and execution of the character rivals Mustafa’s, even sometimes outstripping him.
While there are laughs (So. Many. Laughs) to be had, there is a tragic undercurrent that runs throughout the series, similar to, you guessed it, The Office. Can someone as pathetic as Grindah ever be happy? Or perhaps more pressingly, will the people that love him ever see sense so that they can be happy? Allen Mustafa recalls a time when all they did was smoke weed and watch David Brent, so their arc bears striking similarities. Crucially, they take this template and bring something wholly new to it – largely with the aid of some now-iconic characters – with little dashes of ourselves thrown in, or at least people we know. If nothing else, PJDN will make you laugh – the hit rate for each joke is insane, in comparison to most other British comedy. There is also one of the most subtle, most beautifully crafted sub-plots I’ve ever seen in TV – regarding Grindah’s daughter – and it’s an absolute joy to see how they masterfully, deliberately skirt around it. One day, this show might be mentioned in the same breath as it’s guiding inspiration.
If the show is about their doomed attempts to make it big in the world of music, real life has already offered them that – they tend to headline shows from Bestival to Ibiza, and they also had a small hand in the resurgence of one Craig David. Seeing the cast’s devotion to character – I have never heard them speak as their normal selves – is a sign of treating their craft as an art, make no mistake. And these stars are becoming a household name. In terms of the future? No-one knows at the moment. A fourth series has been commisioned and we feel we are at a fork in the road for Grindah that he can’t turn away from, which hints at some irrevocable character growth. Regardless, Kurupt FM is here for the long haul – though the boys can put it better than I can:
Grindah: “Kurupt FM will never die, yeah, and neither will we, like.”
Beats: “We’re like dragons.”
Grindah: “Well no, cos dragons don’t exist.”
Beats: “A dinosaur or a T Rex.”
Grindah: “Well no, cos the T rex would be me cos there’s only one T rex.”
Dir: Jack Clough
Scr: Allan Mustafa, Steve Stamp, Asim Chaudhry, Hugo Chegwin, Lily Brazier
Starring: Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin, Asim Chaudhry, Lily Brazier, Steve Stamp
Music: Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin
Number of Episodes: 16
Episode Runtime: 26 mins
People Just Do Nothing series 1-3 is available for the first time on DVD from November 7th, courtesy of Dazzler Media.