‘People Just Do Nothing’ perfected the mockumentary
While nothing of the type quite exists, the closest thing to a surefire formula for a successful TV show is following a group of absurd characters with hefty delusions of grandeur. From David Brent and Michael Scott in both versions of “The Office” to Jimmy Shive-Overly in “You’re the Worst,” we love characters whose egos are only eclipsed by their incompetence. BBC Three’s “People Just Do Nothing,” in its five short seasons, perfected this formula yet remains, to this day, criminally underappreciated compared to its inspirations.
This “Office”-style mockumentary centers around Kurupt FM, a pathetically small pirate radio station based out of Brentford in West London. Run by “MC Grindah” (Allan Mustafa) and “DJ Beats” (Hugo Chegwin), the illegal setup has an operating radius of about two blocks, but doesn’t stop the pair from deluding themselves that they take over the London airwaves every time they play. Other staff include “Steves,” a stoner who displays infrequent flashes of remarkable intelligence and Decoy, the straight man to Grindah’s overall outrageousness.
Despite the fact that each of these characters are noteworthy on their own, they are eclipsed by one of the most absurdly funny characters ever to grace a TV screen: Chabuddy G (Chabuds to his mates, Charlie to his colleagues), portrayed by Asim Chaudhry. Also known as “Brown Casanova” and the “Mayor of Hounslow,” he is a potent combination of Alan Partridge and the aforementioned David Brent/Michael Scott all rolled into one. A self-proclaimed “entrepreneur,” he provides most of the “resources” to the Kurupt FM crew as well as his own products, including a vodka made of window polish which he markets as “Polish vodka” as a legal loophole.
Perhaps the show’s biggest asset is the chemistry that the cast has built up over the years. Before the show even piloted, most of the actors on the show worked together on a YouTube sketch series which parodied the underground radio stations that permeated the grime/garage scene in the UK, a scene which many of the actors were themselves a part of. As Sam Wallaston of The Guardian points out in an interview with the cast, the show is both a parody and a homage to that world, down to the “music samples and trainer [sneaker] brands,” not to mention the glorious array of tracksuits.
While the relatively niche aspects of the music are important to the show, the charm comes from the basic fact that most of the characters are blithering idiots, or at least they seem to be. Apart from Chabuddy G, it is difficult to tell just how self-aware the characters are. Grindah tries to convince us that his daughter with his girlfriend Miche (Lily Brazier) appears mixed-race (despite both parents being white) because he is a quarter cypriot, when it is clearly obvious that Decoy (who is Black) is the actual father. Miche, a hairdresser, herself tries to convince herself that it is her destiny to become a celebrity and that her boyfriend (later husband) is actually more than a musically hopeless MC. Yet at the end of the day, don’t we all have our own hopeless delusions about who we are and who we will be? As the Kurupt FM crew show, maybe that’s fine and it’s more important to just have fun with it.