13 August 2008 | bootlebarth
Keep your ears and eyes open all the time!
Hapless Roy Mallard (the almost entirely unseen Chris Langham) makes documentaries about 'people like us': bank manager, estate agent, mother, vicar, photographer, pilot, etc. These half hour episodes are as droll as anything you'll see or hear.
The droning narration is a masterpiece of nonsense. Almost every sentence has a misunderstanding, a mixed metaphor or something downright silly. If you like lines like: 'if John and Mary are still together in two years they'll both have been married to the other person, as husband and wife, for the same period of four years', make sure you watch 'People Like Us'. But if you prefer to snigger at custard pies, painful blows to the groin or creepy Benny Hill chasing bikini babes, this won't be your cup of tea.
This is cerebral rather than visceral comedy. There are some running jokes, mainly about the appearance, marital status and name of Roy/Ray Mallard/Nolland/Mattard and the succession of faux pas he commits.
The acting is excellent throughout. Even the credits play the game by not linking performers with their roles. All we see is that the BBC wishes to thank Tom, Dick and Harriet, etc.
Each episode is superficially pedestrian and boring, as we appear to follow a typical day of 'people like us' in the time-honoured 'fly-on-the-wall' manner. But this isn't wham, bam, in your face comedy. You have to concentrate very hard to get everything. Watch out for the flustered mother loading slices of uneaten toast into the dishwasher. Listen to the flight attendant, Susan Churchfield, switching to French, introducing herself as Suzanne Eglisechamp and later asking passengers to return to their assiettes. Note the plane reflected in the office block windows flying backwards.
'People Like Us' is a wonderful series, for those who like that kind of thing. For aficionados, it could hardly be bettered. Rarely has humour been so clever and concentrated. For others, reruns of Benny Hill, Paul Hogan and too many others of that ilk can always be found. I know what I prefer.