Staying in: Jeers to the style victims

Satire-master Chris Morris taunts urban trendies in his new series on C4
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The Independent Culture
Any new series by Chris Morris, the comedian responsible for such groundbreaking (and headline-grabbing) work as On the Hour, The Day Today, Brass Eye and Blue Jam, is rare and substantial enough to interest the most jaded of journalists. Nathan Barley, Morris's first full TV series in several years, is being anticipated in the media with barely suppressed excitement.

But does this six-part sitcom, co-written by Morris and Charlie Brooker (the mind behind TV Go Home), live up to expectations? Well, more or less. Although Morris himself does not appear in the opening episode, his satirical fingerprints are all over Nathan Barley. Eschewing the spoof current-affairs formats he has favoured in the past, Morris opts this time for a more straightforward sitcom narrative. The series is set in the industrial conversions of the fictional London borough of Hosegate.

Morris pokes fun mercilessly at Barley (Nick Burns, above right), a self-styled "web-master, guerrilla film-maker, screenwriter, DJ and self-facilitating media node", played in suitably self-regarding fashion by newcomer Nicholas Burns. He presides over a supposedly super-maverick website called Trashbat.co.uk. Described by Barley as "an online, urban culture dispatch", it specialises in playing excruciating "pranks".

Given to such nonsensical slogans as "keep it foolish" and "you're rockin' the main stage, dude", Barley and his acolytes are obsessed with novelty and "irony". They ride around on tiny bicycles and skateboards with outsized flip-flops strapped to their heads. They are fixated by trendiness, but fail to grasp that what is in fashion this week will almost certainly be out next week. Barley worships the journalist Dan Ashcroft, who pens magazine articles about what's hot. In this week's opener, Barley tries to work his charms on Dan's sister, Claire, an earnest documentary-maker seeking funding for her film about a choir of reformed junkies. You want to keep freeze-framing to soak up the background detail. When Claire is pitching, for example, posters on the commissioning editor's wall advertise programmes such as When Surgeons Crack Up and Nazi Experiments in Colour.

There is a danger that Morris is speaking to a tiny, self-referential audience - and the title character resembles that other "chilled-out entertainer", David Brent from The Office. However, while Nathan Barley may not have the tabloids working themselves up into the sort of lather generated by Morris's "paedophile" episode of Brass Eye, the series should make a mark.

After all, you have got to love any show that sends up uber-hip, style- mag pretentiousness. In Nathan Barley, the editor of the aspiring "bible of cool" magazine, Sugar Ape, is called Jonathan Yeah? As his PA explains: "He added the question mark by deed poll."

`Nathan Barley' is on Fri at 10pm on C4

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