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Before there was The Office, there was People Like Us. A mockumentary in the style of the "docusoap" British reality television shows popular at the time about regular people and their regular lives, People Like Us follows actors playing average citizens going about their days working (or failing to do so), with an inept interviewer in tow, frequently getting sidetracked or becoming haplessly involved with his subjects. It is perfectly droll and quintessentially British, with a slew of great deadpan actors, some of whom have gone on to gain larger fame. Written by
Though host Roy Mallard (voiced by Chris Langham) is never actually seen on-screen, a part of him will be seen in each episode, either a body-part or a reflection - a glass sliding door in episode 1.2, 'The Estate Agent', on the CCTV in 1.3 'The Police Officer' and in a shop window in episode 1.5, 'The Photographer' as well as seen briefly in a badly developed photo. In 1.4 'The Solicitor' his cheek and nose are seen when he spills his tea. See more »
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
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