I’ve already written several posts about Nathan Barley (use the search if you want to see what I thought), so I won’t go on too much about the actual programme. But the DVD came out a couple of weeks ago and I have a few more thoughts.
Opinion on Nathan Barley still seems sharply divided. Most seem to hate it, but that might just be because I visit Cook’d and Bomb’d, a Chris Morris “fan” site that actually hates Morris’ guts, and whose visitors go wibble if he isn’t doing his Jeremy Paxman impressions. Nathan Barley led to record-breaking poor viewing figures for Channel 4. I always thought Friday at 10 o’clock (the same slot as Big Brother evictions for goodness’ sake) was a strange place to put a programme like Nathan Barley; a late night weekday slot would surely have been more apt.
Still, a commited few, including me, think that Nathan Barley was actually a brilliant progamme, and the more I watch it the more I like it. But I’ve come to think that the series is a bit unfocussed. The first clue is that the programme is as much about Dan Ashcroft as it is about the eponymous character.
The release of the DVD also gives us a chance to compare it to the original pilot episode, which is a work of genius in comparison with the actual series. It contains a lot of the best bits of the series, like Dan Ashcroft’s haircut and 15peter20’s exhibition — and lots of other funny stuff that didn’t make the actual series. That’s disappointing because some of the actual broadcast episodes can go for ages without there being much in the way of jokes, like the bit when Ashcroft has to attend the nightclub in his Preacher Man gear — a scene that lasts about three times as long as it needs to.
The pilot feels closer to the original Nathan Barley character from the “Cunt” columns in TV Go Home. For instance, in the pilot Nathan Barley acts as though he has money on tap — this doesn’t happen as much in the series itself, but it’s much more obvious in the pilot. Barley also seems like more of a media all-rounder in the pilot. Straight away he’s collaborating with Claire on a documentary project. In the series, though, he’s little more than just an annoying person who shouts into his silly mobile phone.
A lot of the pilot material was re-used for the series, which leads to an error in the episode where Barley gets a Geek Pie haircut. In the actual broadcast episode you see him spit out the dummy at the end of his haircut. I didn’t know what it was all about until I watched the pilot episode, so why was him spitting out the dummy left in the actual programme?
All-in-all, though, I think Nathan Barley is a good programme. There are some great lines and brilliant characters who appear all too briefly, particularly the Channel 7 commissioner. A lot of these sorts of jokes maybe go over most people’s heads though, which might explain the ratings bomb. I’m convinced, for instance, that the anti-drugs singer-songwriter visting the school is a piss-take of Graham Coxon — but how many Friday night Channel 4 viewers even know who Graham Coxon is?
As for the DVD itself, there are some good (but not great) extras — but not a lot. Apart from the pilot, the best one is the booklet that comes with the DVD, which is an amusing spoof of middle class graffiti artist Banksy’s work. I’ve only come across one Easter egg, featuring Barley amusingly trying to explain away his tan line. The menus are quite amusing aswell, with Barley clowning up in public with his mobile phone permanently aloft.
I guess whether or not there is a second series hinges on DVD sales (and whether or not Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris can resolve the creative disagreement they’re apparently having). I’d love for there to be a second series, because I’m sure there’s more to come from this programme, which is severely under-rated in my opinion.