Channel 4’s new drama Not Safe for Work tries to make a point about working life in Britain today—but doesn’t quite pull it off.
It’s set against the backdrop of “restructuring”—read cuts—in a civil service department.
Having just finalised her divorce the night before, Katherine (Zawe Ashton) finds out that she’s being immediately posted to Northampton.
Katherine protests that it’s only people who are “bad at their jobs” that are sent there.
But the HR head just retorts that it’s “cost effective”, using all the classic management speak that we’re confronted with in the workplace.
Northampton is a disaster. Her new boss Danny (Sacha Dhawan) is a drug addict who she used to manage. The “Immigration Pathway” agency is being run into the ground.
Danny parties all night and plays video games in the office. Recommendations he’s signed off on include giving migrants camping equipment—very British—to help integration.
We’re told that Katherine wrote the original proposal for the Immigration Pathway, because different departments don’t communicate leaving migrants to fall through the cracks.
But the government didn’t take any of her recommendations seriously and is trying to find any excuse to shut it down.
However, apart from a backdrop that’s sometimes alluded to, the show doesn’t really touch on austerity.
Its main focus is on the different characters’ personal lives. Anthony, who Katherine had an affair with now also works in the same office.
The HR head’s job is also “relocated” and because of an administrative error they end up sharing the same accommodation.
They’re supposed to do a presentation for the minister, but Danny hasn’t done any work for it. Katherine sets about trying to save her project.
The main problem with Not Safe for Work is that it’s not sure whether it’s a comedy or a drama.
It’s possible to have good comedy drama, but it just wasn’t that funny.
Like a lot of shows, it uses sexist language. But it just feels disjointed from the rest of the dialogue and plot as if it was added in to shock us.
That said, it becomes more serious in the second episode and could turn into a funny and serious show.
Not Safe for Work