Best of 2019 | #8 – Stath Lets Flats

stath lets flats jamie demetriou natasia ellie white al roberts kiell smith-bynoe channel 4 letting agent brexit

Last year, Stath Lets Flats didn’t make my top ten. I included it under honourable mentions – almost, but not quite, good enough for the list. This year, I think it might be one of the straightforwardly funniest shows I’ve seen all year.

Yesterday, I was talking about Derry Girls as being one of the most distinct comedies on television at the moment, comparing it to Fleabag and This Way Up. I almost said it was more distinct than Stath Lets Flats, too, before something gave me pause. Where Derry Girls is recognisably different from its contemporaries and easily distinguished from its predecessors, Stath Lets Flats is, well, unrecognisably different. It’s not hard to highlight influences on either – Derry Girls is a little bit like The Inbetweeners, and lots of people have pointed out that Stath Lets Flats is a bit like The Office or Alan Partridge. (I would contend that Stath himself is maybe not a million miles away from Mr Bean, actually.)

But where it’s relatively easy to explain what Derry Girls does distinctly – quite how specific its voice is – for the most part, its humour and its rhythms are pretty easily understood. Stath Lets Flats, on the other hand? It’s often quite difficult to articulate exactly how funny it is after fact: it isn’t so much that explaining the joke ruins it, but that it’s really hard to explain the joke in the first place.

Part of the appeal – the easiest bit to explain – is Jamie Demetriou. He’s front and centre in Stath Lets Flats – obviously he is, as creator, writer and star. One of the first things you notice about Demetriou is how tall he is; the next is how good he is at physical comedy. It’s not subtle, exactly, but it is a constant feature in the background – lanky and gangling, watch how he folds in and out of cars or fumbles his energy drink. In fact, the recurring energy drink joke that opens the second episode is probably the best example of what Stath Lets Flats is and what it’s good at. If you don’t enjoy that, you’re probably not going to enjoy the show full stop.

The other thing about Stath Lets Flats is the language. This is where it gets a bit more difficult to articulate exactly what’s going on with Stath, because just on a basic level, the way the title character talks is almost entirely like any other character on television. Sam Wolfson called it “almost his own language, a creole of north London slang, Greek idioms and the patois of ineptitude”, which is a neat way of putting it, but still doesn’t quite capture the almost lyrical nonsense of Stath Lets Flats. Sarah Manavis wrote probably the best piece of Stath’s dialogue I’ve seen so far: how the recognisable slang chafes against unexpected vocabulary, a tenuous, disjointed echo of something you’re faintly familiar with. It’s not, as Manavis points out, a million miles away from internet shitposting. Or, put another way? If The Good Place is the sort of programme that would try and fail to make a joke about 30-50 feral hogs, Stath Lets Flats is the sort of programme that would make a joke that taps into the same sense of humour – and make it work. It’s probably the only sitcom on television that could make that claim: a whole mode of comedy, otherwise completely untapped on screen. That’s something special, no matter how you try and sell it.

The eccentric, off-kilt lead is but one part of an eccentric, off-kilt ensemble of course. The obvious standouts are Natasia Demetriou and Al Roberts – their almost romance and sweet chemistry is one of the best parts of the show – but often it’s the less prominent supporting characters who really shine, like Kiell Smith-Bynoe as Dean, the closest thing to a straight-man the show can manage. My personal favourite, though, has to be Ellie White (Natasia Demetriou’s frequent collaborator and comedy partner) who, as Katya, is a perfect foil to Stath. Probably one of the most obvious improvements between the first and second series – other than the sense that all involved are now a lot more confident in what they’re doing – is the fact that Katya shows up more often in series 2.

There’s been an instinct, amongst some, to suggest that Stath Lets Flats is a parable for the Brexit age. It resonates, yes, and it’s not hard to see how or why – I’m fairly sure the cast and crew did a twitter thread about how each character voted a few weeks ago, though I can’t find it now.

But that’s almost missing the point. Stath Lets Flats doesn’t need to be “about” anything to be worthwhile – indeed, Jamie Demetriou said it’s about everything apart from Brexit. It’s valuable because it’s one of the most idiosyncratic, most original, and funniest shows of the year. No wonder it made this list.

Click here to find the rest of the Best of 2019 list – or, click here to filter by television shows and here to filter by television episodes

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Weekly Watchlist #3 (16th Sept – 22nd Sept)

weekly watchlist 3 defending the guilty will sharpe loudest voice russell crowe roger ailes the cameron years david cameron on the record

Back again.

Defending the Guilty (BBC Two)

Started watching this because it had Will Sharpe in it, mainly, and he was so good in Flowers. Actually I figured he’d be writing this too, which was a big part of why I was interested (again, really, go and watch Flowers, he wrote it, it’s brilliant) – he didn’t write it, but he’s still great in it, so it balances out I think.

I liked it, anyway, and I’m definitely inclined to stick with it. It’s quite ostentatiously pilot-y in places, paying off lines from earlier in the episode right up until the credits, and you can definitely sense how specifically constructed it’s been – but, equally, there’s an obvious level of competence to it that stops it ever feeling grating. The cast are hugely charming, too, and this has clearly got the potential to develop into something pretty memorable.

Euphoria (HBO, Sky Atlantic)

What I like most about Euphoria is the moments when it realises it doesn’t have to be realistic. I mean, granted, it’s never that realistic – it thrives in the space that separates optimism and cynicism, fantasy and nightmare, never quite the parents’ worst fears nor the teens’ great expectations, injecting both with a note of scepticism and, lets be honest, deep pretension – but still. Recognising that it often already veers on the exaggerated, because stories about teenagers always do, leaning into that is where its most impressive – so sidestepping any obligation to realism to instead commit to a 70s crime drama spoof, or indeed a Larry Stylinson sex scene, is where Euphoria is at its best. (Although, that said, I’m never fond of those House-esque ‘inside the body’ medical shots. Don’t bother, they’re never worth it.)

It still isn’t perfect. (Well, Zendaya is, but everything around her somewhat less so.) I’m not sure if I’d like it to lean a little further into the almost anthology-esque style of the openings focused on each character, or to go the other way and integrate the plotlines a little more – or, indeed, if that’d make a difference at all. But it’s been a mostly strong if occasionally shaky series so far, and I’m interested to see how the finale ties that all together.

Stath Lets Flats (Channel 4)

I say this after every episode of Stath Lets Flats, but I think A Stressfully Date is the best episode of the series so far. I mentioned already how impressive Jamie Demetriou’s knack for physical comedy is, but so are all those idiosyncratic little word choices – “like a red metal” is basically meaningless, but in context, it’s sublime.

Succession (HBO, Sky Atlantic)

I would watch a Tom/Cousin Greg spinoff. Or, really, just more of them every episode. Consistently my favourite part of any given episode, alongside all my other favourite parts of any given episode.

The Cameron Years & The David Cameron Interview (BBC One & ITV)

Putting these ones together because in many respects they were functionally identical – actually, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Cameron’s sections in each were recorded on the same day, as part of the same press session?

Anyway, I wasn’t especially impressed – neither were anywhere close to interrogative enough, they were far too passive to be of much note. Specifically the BBC version, actually; I wasn’t especially impressed by the choice to remove the journalist’s side of the conversation, presenting it solely as Cameron’s own narration, straight to camera. Not a huge amount of room for insight – it’s probably the longest advert for a book I’ve ever sat through.

The Loudest Voice (Showtime, Sky Atlantic)

The second episode is where I started to understand The Loudest Voice better, I think – its 9/11 episode is an often frantic, at times chilling piece, and I think here starts to make the case for this series as something approaching a vital piece of drama.

You can look at other Weekly Watchlists here. If you liked this article and you want to support what I do, you can leave a tip over on ko-fi, or back my Patreon here.

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