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When I first saw this it took me a few minutes to catch on to the fact that it was not a real documentary - it looks and sounds like a real documentary if you don't pay attention, but when you do pay attention, the humour is pervasive and brilliant.
Humor is often associated with a darker side - cruelty, pain, sadness. Some of the funniest movies, books and tv shows are those that intermix these well. American TV doesn't seem to explore this side very much, but British TV comedy does and some of the best of british sitcoms are those that do this deeply - Basil Fawlty wouldn't be anywhere near as funny if he were just Bill Cosby. "The League of Gentlemen" goes quite a ways in this direction - far enough to squick some watchers. "People Like Us" is nothing like that extreme, but much of the humour is based on situations that (if they were happening to us) would probably not be considered "good days".
"People Like Us" takes the form of a documentary TV show (named "people like us") with "Roy Mallard" following "people like us" around in their jobs and interviewing them. We never really see Roy, but we hear his questions and comments. So far, it looks like many documentaries. And if you only watch
casually, it continues to look that way. But if you look and listen more closely, it becomes far more interesting. And very funny.
Part of the humour comes from Roy's commentary, which is wonderfully deadpan, but which often includes odd mistakes and misstatements. If you don't listen, you'll miss them - as often the various portions of the sentence make complete sense ("Although since the beginning of the twentieth century the number of people attending church regularly has fallen by twice that amount over the same period of time...") Part of the humour comes from the people he's interviewing. In some cases these people are hurting - they're on the verge of failure, or even beyond. In other cases things just go wrong. A bank manager forgets the password for his safe, a real estate agent gets lost. Roy walks off with a childs toy. Minor events and given minor consideration with no fanfare - but often very, very funny. (In American sitcoms, there'd be a laugh track, and sometimes this kind of incident would be the basis for a full episode.)
Interestingly, after a couple of episodes, it begins to seem that the title "People Like Us" is really true for Roy. The people featured are the ones that seem most like him in some ways. We never see Roy and don't hear much about him, but we do discover he is married and that this show for him is perhaps a step down from the farm report. And in some ways this show is a serious dissection of Roy, seen only in how other people are interacting with him.
Its hard to describe this program and how funny it can really be. Best thing to do is watch it and see for yourself.
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