Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blog Post Where I Go On and On About Nathan Barley

This show is soooooo funny! Interesting social commentary too, I guess.

Having been a fan of The Mighty Boosh, I was pretty excited when my friend Sue Anne Zollinger (the person who introduces me pretty much all funny British TV, [incidentally, she just got a job and moved to Scotland, so she will certainly be in the pulse]) said that Julian Barratt had a new show (new to us Yanks, anyway, it actually came out in 2005) called Nathan Barley.

The show is based on this fictional character Nathan Barley who is a complete jackass techno wiki-chump* media chode living in London. He runs a counter-culture website called (registered in the Cook Islands, yes, it is a real URL) which seems to mostly consist of his sole employee, Pingu (Ben Whishaw, who recently played Bob Dylan in that one new movie about Bob Dylan and who by the way, has a ridiculous website that I can only hope is a joke) getting pranks played on him where he ends up peeing his pants, sort of like Jackass, but with more of a bullying element. Nathan goes around saying vapid, meaningless things to everyone he comes in contact with, and is always calling average British citizens "my nigga." In the UK, the show is so successful that the name "Nathan Barley" is often "used pejoratively towards those whose lifestyles were satirised by the series." Nathan Barley is truly a loathsome character, but he is not alone, as pretty much everyone on this show is a hipster idiot of one kind or another, with the exception of Dan Ashcroft (Julian Barratt) and his strangely attractive (I know! A hot British woman?) sister, Claire Ashcroft (Claire Keelan).

Clare Ash

Dan Ash
(He doesn't usually look like this, really.) Dan Ashcroft, applying for a 20,000 pound loan after accidentally falling asleep on a bunch of paint. This hairstyle, know as "Geek Pie" goes on to be all the rage in Japan. He doesn't get the loan.

Dan Ashcroft is a not-so-great journalist and his sister Claire is a documentary filmmaker. They both struggle to be noticed for their work in a world that appears to be inhabited mostly by idiot hipsters. Dan writes for a magazine called Sugar Ape, an exaggeratedly more ridiculous parody of urban lifestyle magazines like Vice and whoever else runs huge American Apparel ads these days. In trying to critique the world of fools around him, he write a piece entitled "The Rise of the Idiots." The piece becomes a major hit among the very people he is trying to criticize, because these idiots call each other idiots as if it were a compliment and take the notion of idiocy as their credo for coolness. Dan Ashcroft is immediately bewildered to find that all of the hipster idiots around him love the piece, and he has become their poet laureate, the William S. Burroughs of this idiot movement, the King of the Idiots. Throughout the show, you see him struggling to not be as big of an idiot as the people around him, but having to compromise his values to make a living as a writer for Sugar Ape (the most extreme example probably being when he finds himself giving a middle-aged dad a handjob at a pub while on a Sugar Ape investigative journalism assignment exploring the depths of "straight-on-straight gay encounters" which he took so that he could pay off an enormous video store late fee).

What I find to be most interesting about the show is the great detail put into the portrayal of the hipster idiots, especially the ones who work in the Sugar Ape office. Although their fashion is kind of exaggerated for the sake of comedy, the truthiness of this fashion satire definitely shines through.

My favorite of the hipsters is this one kid who works in the Sugar Ape office, I call him the kid with the hood:

hood kid B
His shirt says "You can't rap if you ain't black."

hood kid
You can't really see it here, but he is jumping on a trampoline while talking on what appears to be a huge Zac Morris-style cell phone.

Sometimes he rides a small plastic tractor around the Sugar Ape office.

barley C
Hoodie kid and a friend are getting honked at as they ride other ridiculous vehicles.

barley B
Riding little things seems to be all the rage among the idiots.

More funny hipster fashion.

barley G
The new Sugar Ape logo.

barley E
Nathan Barley, note the double bluetooth action.

pingu B
Nathan, Pingu, and Claire at headquarters.

tophat guy
Another funny hipster.

One of the real treats of this show is that every once in a while you get to see Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh, who plays Dan and Claire Ashcroft's flatmate, a tweaked-out electronic musician named Jones. His character is absolute genius. He prances around their flat with electronics strapped to his body, making music that is intended to sound like the worst crap in the world but that I actually find myself kind of liking.

jones C
It kills me that he has a painting of himself up on the wall.


The real gem though is this video:

Anyway, this show is only six episodes long, and I think it's pure gold. You can watch the entire first episode on YouTube, and if you really like it, I have a disc with the remaining episodes if you want to borrow it. I think it's out on real DVD as well, if you have some duckets to drop.

*Thank you to Andrew Restrepo for making up the word "wiki-chump." It's one of those terms that is both strangely vague while also being completely descriptive. He coined this term in his scathing review of Make Magazine's Weekend Projects Podcast host Bre Pettis.


Shannon said...

Awesome. My Scottish friend keeps telling me I'll love this show. I'm going to go to YouTube and check out that first episode.

Daren said...

Is there a link to his review of the Make Mag podcast host?

M. H. D. said...

It was supposed to be a guest blog, but it was so mean that I've held off on posting it. Every time I see him, he's like "Hey man, did you post that wiki-chump thing yet?" I can send it to you if you want. What do you think, Bre Pettis, yes or no? I mean, he's a proud version of the modern nerd, but isn't that kind of the point if you are the host of the Make podcast?

M. H. D. said...

That being said, I watch it every week and pretty much always enjoy it a lot.

Kino said...

oh wow. for some reason this type of stuff across the pond never reaches me. i like the first episode, i'm going to keep wachting.

have you seen jekyll?

M. H. D. said...

OMG, dude. Jekyll is demented. I liked it.

Mr Mantle said...

no word of a lie - Barley is the best thing to happen to the world ever. You need to check out Tommy Guns the hair dressers - its totally Stanley Knives. Go there and ask for a geek pie - well not jackson response.
Keep it dense yeah.
Mr Mantle