Ladhood review – thank you, Liam Williams, for this consistently excellent comedy | Television
Liam Williams says this will probably be Ladhood’s (BBC Three) last series, “because I just don’t have any memories”. I’ll be sad to see the back of this one, because it turned those memories into great television. The streets feature prominently on its soundtrack, and Ladhood feels like an ideal companion for their first two albums in particular – albeit one with a little less nightlife and a little more whining about parents, the pocket money and a father addicted to sudoku.
As always, this semi-autobiographical comedy – although its humor revolves around slapstick and desperation – switches between the life of adult Liam, now 34, in a rut and wondering how he ended up like this, and the teenager Liam, 18, preparing for his A-levels and being encouraged to apply for Oxbridge by his school and parents. We are at the beginning of something; the other is at the end. It encounters a particularly entertaining kind of gloom in the middle, and it bows out without sacrificing any of its surly irony or biting wit.
Each episode, Williams takes a theme and follows it. In the opening, vaguely about housing, teenager Liam is so sick of being told what to do by “those mean, unreasonable bastards” (his parents) that he is considering moving to a shared apartment with his friends, leaving him free to do whatever he wants, like watching Family Guy box sets and smoking weed. Cut to adult Liam, living in a small flat in east London, being scolded by his landlord for daring to stick a picture on the wall. She raises her rent by several hundred pounds a month, and when he tries to get a mortgage, the estate agent laughs at him. If Ladhood could have waited a few more months, I would have liked to see what adult Liam would do with the current situation.
There is a lot of work here too. Adult Liam works for an ad agency, though he never seems quite sure what he’s there to do or why. He tries to quit and gets a promotion. He tries to give it a try and finds himself falling into an ethical and moral wormhole about what kind of businesses he is supposed to market. There are moments of Nathan Barley in pure office silliness, most notably in his incredibly stupid boss, who is a walking hands-free headset. Young Liam, meanwhile, takes a job at a chain restaurant and gobbles up extra shifts at the cost of school, with the under-18 minimum wage opening up the world to him, or at least opening up the possibility of don’t have to beg. his friends to buy him a pint at the pub.
Will he sacrifice academic success for a “physically demanding salaried job” at 16, like his friends, or will he seize the opportunity offered by his “word maggot” abilities and leave for college, in another entirely life? Conflict is at the heart of this series, and it’s about more than a sliding door moment. It is a matter of class, family, home and belonging. The split timeline means we know, roughly, how it happened, but at the end of the series, adult Liam plans to go back up north and rip it all out and start over. He counts with his past and wonders who he could be in the future. While much of it is banter and teenagers making fun of each other, it’s also thoughtful and moving.
It’s smart too, which isn’t surprising, given young Liam’s intelligent tendencies. Young Liam’s director breaks the fourth wall to explain that he often seems to give important information at the top of a stage and to check that the audience has understood it correctly. There’s an episode about psychedelics with a musical interlude inspired by a boyband. For all its boredom, there is an equal amount of absurdity.
As usual, adult Liam is Banquo’s ghost, perpetually haunting young Liam’s delight, embarrassed by his teenage mistakes, hovering to offer a fatherly implication that it doesn’t get much better than this. “That’s not how life was supposed to be,” he said with weary resignation. The overall mood is gloomy, especially these days, but it digs deep for its end. Don’t expect a rousing end show, but in its own messy way it finds a satisfying resolution.