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A different—if slightly twee—take on young adult humour

There’s a familiar concept at the heart of odd couple buddy comedy Big Boys—but its new look at masculinity gives it a twist, writes Nick Clark
Issue 2806
Jack and Danny in Channel 4 comedy Big Boys

Jack and Danny ‘two opposite sides of the masculinity spectrum’ in Channel 4 comedy Big Boys

Channel 4 says its new comedy Big Boys is a silly, sweet comedy about two boys from very different ends of the “spectrum of masculinity”. Jack and Danny are thrown together at freshers’ week in 2013 when, somewhat implausibly, their university houses them together in a shed rather than a hall of residence.

Jack, a sheltered 19 year old from Watford, is trying to overcome his dad’s death, and grappling with how to come out as gay. Meanwhile Danny, at 25, is a few years older than everyone else and seems a stereotypical lads’ lad who “looks like a contestant from Take Me Out.”

Obviously they become best friends. But don’t expect the antagonistic odd-couple humour of, say Peep Show, or the dated laddishness of The Inbetweeners, from Big Boys.

Instead there’s a lot of heart and a few touching moments. But Big Boys’ writer Jack Rooke leaves little room for over-sentimentality, skilfully and immediately turning the saddest moments into jokes.

In the first ten minutes, grief, joy, loneliness, silliness, depression, vulnerability and three separate wanking jokes all weave into each other with the same comical tone.

There’s not quite so much depth to the rest of the supporting characters, at least in the first episode. There’s an array of the usual university stereotypes, even though the campus feels too quiet and underpopulated for a freshers’ week.

Most of them bear some resemblance to someone you’ve probably met in real life, some more convincing than others. The overbearing Jules, with her try-hard, compulsive enthusiasm, is perhaps most convincing as every “student ambassador” who loved university so much they got a job there and never left.

Big Boys is all a little twee and sickly sweet. But it does allow for Danny to be refreshing, different, and an interesting take on the British lad.

He’s loud and likes to drink. But he’s also vulnerable, empathetic and kind. It also feels like there’s a lot more development of his character to come, which, if you enjoy it, is probably the main reason to keep watching.

  • Big Boys starts Thursday 26 May, 10pm on Channel 4 and then on All 4

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