The time when even Friends’ enviable set-up of six pals sharing a flat seemed relatable has long gone. For a generation of twenty-somethings flattened by soaring house prices and a government that would rather re-brand £450,000 homes as ‘affordable’ than offer a helping hand, the squalid environs of Crashing, Channel 4’s vibrant and sharply moving comedy from Broadchurch’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, offers a more realistic representation of modern living.
It’s centred on the lives and relationships of six young people living together in an abandoned hospital as property guardians – people who ‘protect’ empty buildings in return for cheap rent. Like Fresh Meat’s dingy student digs, the hospital is a pretty nightmarish ‘sit’ in which to set a ‘com’, with its crumbling walls, lethal light-fittings and the constant threat of eviction should the draconian tenancy rules be broken. Still, it should at least help you to feel better about your own rented hovel.
The threat of serious bodily harm aside, Crashing’s rundown hospital is the perfect setting for this keenly observed comedy, offering a clever means to throw a bunch of messy, strange and complicated characters together and give them space to develop. The borderline-squatters include Sam (Jonathan Bailey), an arrogant, sexually-voracious estate agent; Melody (Julie Dray), a French artist frustrated by her work as a teacher; and Adrian Scarborough’s Colin, a hapless divorcee who needs a place to crash.
But it’s happily engaged couple Anthony (Damien Molony) and Kate (Louise Ford) that are the most interesting occupants here. Living blissfully amongst the asbestos and discarded x-ray machines, their relationship is strained by the sudden arrival of Anthony’s oldest friend, Waller-Bridge’s ukulele-playing Lulu. Their effortless, flirty chemistry instantly sets the uptight Kate on edge – and with good reason, as there’s a frothy tension between the childhood pals that hints of unresolved feelings their awkward banter can’t always hide. Maybe hold off on buying that wedding dress for now, eh Kate?
Considering Waller-Bridge possess a superb ear for filthy, cringe-inducing one-liners, the gags probably don’t come often enough in the first episode, but it’s more than made up for by the depth and complexity of the characters. For all their arrogance and foul-mouthed antics, everyone here is lonely and insecure – from Sam’s fear of being alone to Lulu’s desperation to appear quirky – a perfect representation of the terrifying uncertainty that comes with being in your twenties. Such profundity is important, too, offering just enough sweetness to offset Crashing’s recklessly dirty wit.
Click here to watch Crashing – Episode 1