Author Topic: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal  (Read 2618 times)

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #60 on: August 06, 2019, 09:24:37 PM »
It's just not very funny, is it? It's watchable, the performances are good and I found myself invested in Dan's dire predicament, but the only bit I laughed at was the cutaway to the Sugarape employee with the tiny trilby. That was the only bit I laughed at when I first watched the episode back in 2005.

The jokes are very laboured too. There was no need for the receptionist - who is definitely the only truly nice character apart from Pingu - to point out that Jonatton Yeah? had the question mark added by deed poll, it would be funnier if the absurdity of his surname was never remarked upon. Same goes for the massive SugaRAPE logo. That worked fine as a visual gag, there was no need to draw attention to it.

Morris doesn't usually spoon-feed his audience, so I don't know why he felt the need to spell things out in this.

On a more positive note, Barratt is exceptionally good at playing jaded, depressed characters. His meeting with the Weekend on Sunday is painfully awkward, Barratt underplays his desperation perfectly. But again, it's not funny. It's just uncomfortable.

Burns is fine as Barley, although there are blatant traces of Brent in his performance at times. They were all at it in those days, though, Brent was the new 'That Voice'. However, compared to some of the other performers who ripped off Gervais' performance style, Burns isn't a particularly grievous offender.

It was interesting to note that Claire is initially presented as a fairly decent, sympathetic character, but then she's shown laughing at the horrible prank on Pingu. I don't think she was just laughing out of politeness either, she seemed to find it genuinely funny. So she's not so kind and ethical after all.

I dunno. That wasn't bad, but it felt like it made its point within the first ten minutes. From memory, that was really my main problem with the show - it was just three hours of Morris and Brooker saying "These people are twats, aren't they?".

NoSleep

  • feat. Keith Jarrett and his singing parrot
    • Space Is The Place
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #61 on: August 06, 2019, 09:31:09 PM »
Morris doesn't usually spoon-feed his audience, so I don't know why he felt the need to spell things out in this.

Maybe it's a trait of this group of characters to spell everything out. They think everyone is as stupid as they are.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #62 on: August 06, 2019, 09:54:08 PM »
Maybe it's a trait of this group of characters to spell everything out. They think everyone is as stupid as they are.

But the characters spelling things out in the examples I cited aren't idiots, they're among the few sensible characters in the entire show.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #63 on: August 06, 2019, 09:54:42 PM »
How had I failed to realise how much 'W1A' ripped this off?  And how is it, therefore, that a squillion reviewers adored 'W1A', but ignored NB?

Minor point: I lived in E1 at the time that NB was released, and found it utterly rational regarding the tossers it was mocking.  Can't help thinking it's still on the nail (if not more so), even nearly 15 years on.  The wankers on their phones and their scooters and their inanities - nothing's changed in the slightest.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #64 on: August 06, 2019, 10:17:32 PM »
Yeah, the Perfect Curve lot from Twenty Twelve and W1A are straight out of Barley, but these twats still exist and should be mocked continually. I'd argue that Jessica Hynes' character is a slightly more specific piece of satire, though; she's a horribly accurate distillation of every shallow, stupid, self-involved media PR person in existence (they're not all like that, obviously).

As for reviewers falling over themselves to praise W1A while more or less ignoring NB, that's probably because many of them were more familiar with the type of clueless BBC exec being parodied in the former: "Yes! That is what the BBC is like! Stupid BBC!" Also, W1A is cosier than Barley, so therefore more palatable to the average MSM TV critic. Watching the latter again has reminded me of how relentlessly nihilistic it is.

imitationleather

  • "The French... are famous... for their kissing"
    • http://last.fm/user/ImiLeathr
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #65 on: August 06, 2019, 10:26:39 PM »
It was weird seeing how little that kind of hipster aesthetic has developed at all in the past fifteen years. All it's done is just spread out of that small part of east London and covered the entire country. Most of it (despite the obvious bits such as these people working on a magazine) could still be made today. I guess there's far more beards now as well.

Also odd to see Ayoade doing a character who isn't the Moss-type that has completely taken over his public persona now. Forget the name of his sidekick in this, but he is absolutely dreadful and I also doubt it'd be acceptable for him to play the role like he was genuinely mentally challenged in the way he does in this.

I chuckled a couple of times. Overall it's just not funny, though. It also felt a bit like what could have been the entire series arc (Dan trying to escape the idiots) is just settled right away in episode 1. I remember very little of the rest of the series. Is it just him trying to get away in various ways but failing? Suppose I'll find out.

And Claire laughing at the Pingu video reminded me of why I always thought she was a really poorly-drawn character, who as I recall doesn't get better as the series goes on.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #66 on: August 06, 2019, 10:34:51 PM »
I assumed, perhaps charitably, that Claire laughing at the Pingu video was an attempt to lend her some nuance, but your take sounds nearer the mark: she's just an inconsistently-written character.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #67 on: August 06, 2019, 11:29:05 PM »
I assumed, perhaps charitably, that Claire laughing at the Pingu video was an attempt to lend her some nuance, but your take sounds nearer the mark: she's just an inconsistently-written character.

Or that she's ultimately just as shallow as the rest of them - I mean, her documentary, well-intentioned and all, is all first-day-out-of-uni-into-the-real-world oh-my-god-homeless-people-and-junkies-exist stuff. BoBB nailed it when he mentioned its nihilism; it's such a curdled, hopeless thing, burnt-out rage reduced to a sad cinder of resignation and haplessness. (It's abundantly clear that, once he spat out his article-length statement of contempt, Dan Ashcroft has absolutely nothing to follow it up with.) It's no wonder it's such a hard thing to love - it's a strangled cry of self-loathing (mostly Brooker's, I'll bet, though I'm sure Morris was mired in a bit of post-BES/Jam what-do-I-do-nowism) that indicts whomever it doesn't immediately turn off. (It's frequently been noted how the real-life Barleys were the ones who embraced the show the most - exactly the way the idiots loved the anti-idiot screed more than anyone - but what of the real-life Ashcrofts who were presumably its target audience?)

The fact that I still find myself actively enjoying NB, with all of the above in mind, suggests something about me I really don't care to investigate. Just a glass of Dutch wine and a round or two of cock-muff-bumhole and I'm fit for oblivion. Well futile indeed.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #68 on: August 06, 2019, 11:40:24 PM »
Or that she's ultimately just as shallow as the rest of them - I mean, her documentary, well-intentioned and all, is all first-day-out-of-uni-into-the-real-world oh-my-god-homeless-people-and-junkies-exist stuff. BoBB nailed it when he mentioned its nihilism; it's such a curdled, hopeless thing, burnt-out rage reduced to a sad cinder of resignation and haplessness. (It's abundantly clear that, once he spat out his article-length statement of contempt, Dan Ashcroft has absolutely nothing to follow it up with.) It's no wonder it's such a hard thing to love - it's a strangled cry of self-loathing (mostly Brooker's, I'll bet, though I'm sure Morris was mired in a bit of post-BES/Jam what-do-I-do-nowism) that indicts whomever it doesn't immediately turn off. (It's frequently been noted how the real-life Barleys were the ones who embraced the show the most - exactly the way the idiots loved the anti-idiot screed more than anyone - but what of the real-life Ashcrofts who were presumably its target audience?)

The fact that I still find myself actively enjoying NB, with all of the above in mind, suggests something about me I really don't care to investigate. Just a glass of Dutch wine and a round or two of cock-muff-bumhole and I'm fit for oblivion. Well futile indeed.

Yeah, it's not inconsistent writing it's just that every character in this show is painted in a negative light, including Dan Aschcroft in Episode 1 when he shows up at a job interview with no ideas or preparation expecting to be handed a writing position on the strength of his (presumably) facile body of work at Sugarape.

As for people not finding it funny, well I'm sorry but comedy is an objective science and you are wrong.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #69 on: August 07, 2019, 12:33:20 AM »
Great post, McChesney. I've just watched episode three and, unlike at the time, I'm fascinated by the self-loathing on display.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #70 on: August 07, 2019, 12:49:01 AM »
From what I remember Claire seemd to start out relatively well-intentioned but as she grows desperate and meets Barley and that investor guy the mask drops or she turns to be singularly focused on her career.

But I don't think that world in journalism doesn't really exist anymore. Barley would of made it to some management position in a media company, become 'woke' and instead or revelling in irony would be trying to find some type of authenticity that he could exploit for money. I mean Gavin McInnes eventually had to start a hate group to prove he was authentic and not just cynically using people's frustrations.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #71 on: August 07, 2019, 01:53:03 AM »
Yeah, the Perfect Curve lot from Twenty Twelve and W1A are straight out of Barley, but these twats still exist and should be mocked continually. I'd argue that Jessica Hynes' character is a slightly more specific piece of satire, though; she's a horribly accurate distillation of every shallow, stupid, self-involved media PR person in existence (they're not all like that, obviously).

Twenty Twelve really shows up Nathan Barley. I only knew a bit more about the world it was portraying but it was a country mile more convincing and consistent in its character portrayal and observation of the absurdities of that world down to very small details, and the running themes were far better executed. It has four female characters who aren't ciphers. That's despite it being too gentle and nice and having cameos from famous people.

I don't think John Morton needed Nathan Barley to render the Perfect Curve characters - he'd already shown his ability to pick up on professional jargon and promotional speak in People Like Us. Morris should have worked with him instead of Brooker I've just realised.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #72 on: August 07, 2019, 02:08:07 AM »
Couldn't get past the scissors/cat head moment, personally. It was a shit 'joke', and as a cat lover, uncomfortable.

It's like a scene from some shit Hollywood 'shock' comedy. I love our cat friends too, but I think I'd probably laugh at an inventive piece of comedy in which they came a cropper. Not only is the joke itself lazy and unpleasant, it's signposted to fuck - as soon as Eldon starts going on about how much he loves his cat, you just know what's coming. Morris and Brooker are supposed to be better than Little Britain.

FerriswheelBueller

  • Golden Todger or
  • Silver Member
  • ****
  • ...and I really do mean that.
    • I am antsy for baseball in the off-season.
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #73 on: August 07, 2019, 09:10:00 AM »
I agree with McChesney’s take on Claire. I’m starting to think she’s just as bad as them, or possibly worse because she has some of the intelligence and self-awareness to be better.

I laughed throughout, but perhaps that is because I am childish.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #74 on: August 07, 2019, 09:22:53 AM »
It's like a scene from some shit Hollywood 'shock' comedy. I love our cat friends too, but I think I'd probably laugh at an inventive piece of comedy in which they came a cropper. Not only is the joke itself lazy and unpleasant, it's signposted to fuck - as soon as Eldon starts going on about how much he loves his cat, you just know what's coming. Morris and Brooker are supposed to be better than Little Britain.

Wow, I have no memory of this scene at all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSNibrHodog

Does that have anything to do with the plot or themes of the show at all? Comes across like a lame second tier League of Gentlemen outtake, a reheated Dr Chinnery cast off (a character I think is crap anyway, and who pretty much embodies the style over substance weaknesses that The League sometimes fell prey to).

Also, while it says 'maimed' in that video and the barber is obviously initially very upset at the unexpected visual spectacle of his beloved pet with scissors protruding from it's head, there's a very good chance that the animal would have survived with no long terms effects. It doesn't look like the scissors went in very deep, and it's fairly common for domestic animals to survive similar misfortunes in real life, here's just one recent example (and a much deeper insertion) https://www.boredpanda.com/dog-stabbed-in-head-saving-owner/  Yeah a bit awkward and embarrassing but the situation is very likely not beyond repair as Dan's reaction (remember 'Dan reacts'?) would suggest.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #75 on: August 07, 2019, 09:26:58 AM »
Remember SOTCAA's series 2 trailer?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4pwGmN9AeA


NoSleep

  • feat. Keith Jarrett and his singing parrot
    • Space Is The Place
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #76 on: August 07, 2019, 09:38:01 AM »
Wow, I have no memory of this scene at all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSNibrHodog

Does that have anything to do with the plot or themes of the show at all? Comes across like a lame second tier League of Gentlemen outtake, a reheated Dr Chinnery cast off (a character I think is crap anyway, and who pretty much embodies the style over substance weaknesses that The League sometimes fell prey to).

The whole scene is about how Dan is in a hurry to get the mess that is in his hair dealt with (caused by an accident with paint) and go off to an appointment not looking like a twat. He tells the barber he's in a hurry right at the start.

As a result of the delay and his swift exit Dan ends up impressing Nathan, who gets an identical hairdo.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #77 on: August 07, 2019, 09:49:36 AM »
The whole scene is about how Dan is in a hurry to get the mess that is in his hair dealt with (caused by an accident with paint) and go off to an appointment not looking like a twat. He tells the barber he's in a hurry right at the start.

As a result of the delay and his swift exit Dan ends up impressing Nathan, who gets an identical hairdo.

Fair dos, thanks for taking the time to explain the context to this misremembering idiot. I remember the later daft hair business but not how it first started.

EDIT: and the in a hurry thing explains why Dan 'over'reacts to the cat cranial complication.

NoSleep

  • feat. Keith Jarrett and his singing parrot
    • Space Is The Place
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #78 on: August 07, 2019, 10:03:56 AM »
Does anyone else remember the poster ads (certainly around London; I saw one on a platform in Clapham Junction Station) for Nathan's mobile?

the

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #79 on: August 07, 2019, 10:40:27 AM »
Does anyone else remember the poster ads (certainly around London; I saw one on a platform in Clapham Junction Station) for Nathan's mobile?

'Ahahahahah, modernity!!!'

       

I don't remember Jarvis Cocker advertising it though.

rue the polywhirl

  • eight lives left
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #80 on: August 07, 2019, 11:59:13 AM »
I reckon Claire is laughing at the Pingu prank in episode 1 not out of nastiness but because she is assuming that there is a good friendly relationship between Nathan and Pingu and isn’t yet privy to the actual dynamic between the pair.

I’m up to episode 4 so far. Overall it’s holding up really OK. The media types that it parodies haven’t really changed much in past 15 years so it still feels quite relevant. Nathan Barely is performed spot-on by Nicholas Burns who roams around like a internet-savvy Alex De Large with a bit of Bear from Bo Selecta thrown in. Dan Ashcroft has a strongish opening monologue but very quickly reveals himself to be another idiot and Claire emerges as the only strongly sympathetic character.  Other negatives - the footage looks a bit drab and grainy. I’m surprised by how littered with N-bombs it is. The bed scenes at the end of episode 3 are more than a little problematic.

I really like the fastidious attention to detail throughout the series - people hyperactively hanging from swings and riding pushbikes around the sugarape office. Constant coined phrases like ‘creativilisation’ in the Place promo in episode 3. The intro of episode 3 was almost completely brass eye in style especially with the Chris Morris narration which could have made it seem slightly out of place. The performances of Ayoade and Rhys Thomas are really good. The love the way Rhys’ character tries and quickly gives up finding a comeback to Nathan at the beginning of episode 3 and also how he thinks Claire went into his bedroom because there’s a mess in his pants. I thought 3 was probably most packed with the funniest send ups and situations - the meeting with Doug Rocket, the piss artist exhibition, the restaurant scene. The job interview in episode 1 is definitely the cringiest scene so far and the way the episode ties up at the end is well done - ‘pub etcetera? Nice glass of Dutch wine?’

Another strong asset of the series is the music which is fantastically sequenced throughout. The clubmix of Einstein A Go Go and Level 42 at the end of episode 2 is actually really banging and there are nice little Easter eggs of Bent and Boards of Canada peppered throughout. Overall, I’m happy to say that after all these years Nathan Barley has been keeping it foolish, yeah?
« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 12:12:25 PM by rue the polywhirl »

grassbath

  • Crocker was too green to see it
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #81 on: August 07, 2019, 06:28:55 PM »
I never thought Claire was a particularly sympathetic character because of how easily she's influenced by Nathan's bullshit. When they go on that 'date' in the posh wanker restaurant, at the slightest opportunity he starts acting up and causing trouble to appear fearless and anti-establishment - even though he's clearly been before and picked it to impress her in the first place - and she's totally taken in by it. She's dismissive of Pingu, despite Nathan's bullying and exploitation being obvious, and sneers at the none-too-bright flatmate who has a crush on her.

imitationleather

  • "The French... are famous... for their kissing"
    • http://last.fm/user/ImiLeathr
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #82 on: August 07, 2019, 08:34:51 PM »
I never thought Claire was a particularly sympathetic character because of how easily she's influenced by Nathan's bullshit. When they go on that 'date' in the posh wanker restaurant, at the slightest opportunity he starts acting up and causing trouble to appear fearless and anti-establishment - even though he's clearly been before and picked it to impress her in the first place - and she's totally taken in by it. She's dismissive of Pingu, despite Nathan's bullying and exploitation being obvious, and sneers at the none-too-bright flatmate who has a crush on her.

I think it really is that Brooker and Morris were unable to write a three-dimensional female character back then. Not exactly the only time this has been an issue in a sitcom, though.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #83 on: August 07, 2019, 09:02:47 PM »
I really liked Pongo

Chriddof

  • Things start to happen!
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #84 on: August 10, 2019, 08:58:14 PM »
Does anyone else remember the poster ads (certainly around London; I saw one on a platform in Clapham Junction Station) for Nathan's mobile?

They were absolutely everywhere from what I recall, and I do mean everywhere in the country; during the period when the show was being broadcast, I saw the ad at a bus stop just outside a tiny Somerset village near Weston Super-Mare.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #85 on: August 10, 2019, 09:54:42 PM »
I reckon this piece by Cara Ellison is the best thing that's been written on the show in its favour:
https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/02/nathan-barley-turns-10.html

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #86 on: August 10, 2019, 11:15:13 PM »
They were absolutely everywhere from what I recall, and I do mean everywhere in the country; during the period when the show was being broadcast, I saw the ad at a bus stop just outside a tiny Somerset village near Weston Super-Mare.

I find it strange that Channel 4 mounted such a huge publicity campaign for NB, a show which, at best, was always going to be a cult hit. Did they really think it had the potential to be a huge ratings smash? Printing millions of posters for a niche, offbeat sitcom from the distinctly non-mainstream Chris Morris (and a pre-fame Charlie Brooker) feels like a ridiculous waste of money.

Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #87 on: August 10, 2019, 11:25:17 PM »
Probably because it was about youth culture they expected it  to do well with 18-34 year olds despite being written by two cult artists.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #88 on: August 11, 2019, 12:34:28 AM »
Probably because it was about youth culture they expected it  to do well with 18-34 year olds despite being written by two cult artists.

Probably, yeah. They must've been mortified when it flopped. Still, 14 years later people are still talking about it, which is more than can be said for most British sitcoms launched around the same time.

Shaky

  • I drink your thread
Re: Nathan Barley: a reappraisal
« Reply #89 on: August 11, 2019, 09:53:46 AM »
It's quite telling that the best crafted piece of (TV) Barley is an audio-only extra from the DVD. Nathan prank calls his mother during his some shitty podcast only for Mrs Barley to swiftly yet gently scythe through her son's bullshit. "Why are you speaking like that, Nathan?" "Are you coming to the Village fete on Saturday?" etc . The only way a floundering Nathan can think to end the call is by bellowing, "Fuck off!" at his own mother, on-air.

For me, that whole exchange "gets" the character in a way the series never achieves. He actually feels like a real person. The show itself lurches from cartoonish excess to jarring attempts at grounding the insanity (like the aforementioned needless explanation about Jonatton Yeah's name). A defter hand probably could've reconciled those extremes but it just feels like Brooker and Morris didn't realise how inconsistent the tone was .

As noted, the pilot is better because it actually has one or two moments were Nathan is presented as a human being rather than purely a cartoon.