I feel I should begin this post by setting out my stall early on and offering a small disclaimer. I have only watched one episode of Not Fit for Work, and have made my judgement entirely on that. I didn’t like it. At all. In my defence, millions of other people do the same on shows every week, and just once I didn’t want to have to sit through 3 or more episodes to make a decision. So perhaps it is a little unfair for me to make a call. Or is it?

As someone who is so obsessive that they find it impossible to stop watching a series once it has started, even if quality has deteriorated beyond repair, big questions need to be asked about what went so wrong that I was able to walk away without a second glance.

Well let’s start with the premise. High-flying civil servant Katherine (Zawe Ashton, who I normally love) is transferred to Northampton to work on a scheme that the government is disinterested in and is slowly trying to wind up by only sending the most feckless staff to work on it. She is also newly divorced having been caught having an affair with a colleague, who as luck would have it, has also been transferred.

My first issue with this is the obvious ‘If it’s not London it’s shit’ attitude that we are supposed to buy into. Essentially if you live outside the M25 you are backwards, socially awkward yokels. Which is ironic because I have found nowhere in the country where people are more tribal and less willing to talk than London. No doubt Northampton is meant to represent some hinterland of weirdness, lacking even the character of Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle, places Londoners might visit for a hen/stag weekend and enjoy the quaintness of the funny accents. Northampton has, and is, nothing and nowhere.

The other problem is that if only the idiots are there then why is someone who we are supposed to believe is so successful is sent there? No doubt we are to be given an answer at some point, but the inconsistency of it all is so frustrating you are unlikely to stick around to see the reveal.

The characters are no better. There is the obviously annoying, and possible deranged local girl, all cutesy phrases and fake bon homie. The HR manager who has an abusive son (were we supposed to laugh or flinch at this, I wonder). And, of course, the incompetent manager, who not only got his job by faking skills and ticking a diversity box, but is a drug-addict, sex pest who is pretending to be a devout Muslim. Admittedly one of the rare moments this comedy-drama raised a smile was when Katherine called him out on this, pointing out even he couldn’t pronounce his Islamic-sounding name correctly.

In fact Katherine is one of the few bright spots. Her speech where she declares she is not giving up on her job despite its awfulness is one I, and thousands of others, could say and believe in. Of course, it helps that Ashton is playing her.

Regretfully though, it is not enough to save this show. The characters need to be better drawn, and if you are going to pitch a comedy aspect to a programme, make it bloody funny. Instead of watching episode two I watched a repeat of Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie. At least in between the cringing I was able to laugh at it.

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