TV review - The Fried Chicken Shop (Channel 4) served up something surprisingly tender

 

The Fried Chicken Shop should really have been the worst kind of junk-food TV. Consider the concept on paper: a fly-on-the-wall camera crew pitch up for three weeks at a south London fried chicken takeaway to film the finger-lickin' goings-on of its (more often than not) loud, drunken patrons. Imagine the poetic symmetry if it were aired late on a Friday: drunk people eating a takeaway on their sofas after a night out, watching drunk people eating a takeaway in a takeaway shop after a night out.

But lo and behold, while this hour-long documentary began with a pitch not dissimilar to the awfulness of those shows on Brits behaving badly (in Ibiza, in Benidorm, in Ayia Napa and now on Clapham High Street), it morphed into something textured, tender and poignant. This is perhaps unsurprising, seeing as Roosters Spot – let's call the takeaway shop by its name – had already appeared in an acclaimed Cutting Edge documentary in February.

Its nondescript frontage in Clapham (two doors down from a McDonald's) belied the den of love, laughter and the occasional "after hours" brawl brewing inside, a voiceover told us at the beginning. There was no brawling in this first episode and some laughs – a group of men singing "we want chicken in our face", football-anthem style, as they waited for their order. What shone through was how much "love" – either the real deal or its approximation, or even, in some cases, impromptu attempts to find it over a bucket of fried chicken wings – existed within these sticky walls. That didn't include the lad who bore an uncanny resemblance to the "square one" from The Inbetweeners, who tried to pull a girl by asking her if she believed in love at first sight ("or shall I come over [to you] again?"). She got up and left pretty soon afterwards.

Strangers flirted, couples giggled or bickered, friends bitched ("He looks at other girls," one teenager complained. "Maybe he thinks you're not attractive," her so-called friend retorted). Jessie, Clapham High Street's resident 60-year-old transvestite, was given some air time: "Sometimes I look great, sometimes I look ridiculous. But even if I look ridiculous, I'm still doing what I want to do. I'm saying 'you can do what you want to do, too'."

Then, greater camaraderie bloomed. There was the fast friendship between Imran and Harris, the Pakistani men working behind the counter. "He's my best friend," said Harris, who spoke of his dream to one day run his own Italian restaurant, and then, more delicately, about his feelings for his Italian girlfriend ("I like her… and I love her too, but I haven't told her I want to marry her… maybe I'm shy").

There was a surprisingly lovely friendship between two tipsy young women, Cece and Lulu ("she's perfect," said either Cece or Lulu, of the other one). There was an adorable young couple, Leah and Tyrone, who met in "year seven" and now "me and Tyrone love each other". She wanted marriage, he wasn't as game, but they both wanted a baby, a house, a life together. The last time we met them, she was pregnant and they were on cloud nine.

Love was clearly in the air, even when the lads came in. One lusted after Asian women, looking dreamily outside as they walked past. Cool urban kids said they'd never bring a girl in here for a date. A middle-aged man talked about the ultimate vow of marriage to Imran in Punjabi. The Inbetweener and his friends ruminated on the subject too: "I would say it's hard to meet girls in London..." he said, before adding: "My big plan is to get married and have kids but I'm not sure it's ever going to happen." Who knew such vulnerability could be found in a fried-chicken shop. I bet the inside of McDonald's, two doors down, wouldn't be half as interesting.

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before