The stupid things twenty-somethings get up to when there’s nothing to do has inspired countless slacker comedies over the years.The likes of Bottom, Spaced and Peep Show have all traded on pop-culture nods, gross-out gags and aimless characters you unexpectedly warm towards to strike a chord with 90s audiences. It’s that nostalgic vibe which is once again being channeled in Wasted, E4’s newest comedy about four friends who pass their time getting drunk and up to no good in a West Country village – only this time there’s a surreal 21st century twist.
Written by BAFTA winners James Lamont and Jon Foster, the show centres around four mates: Danny Kirrane’s Morpheus, a serial fantasist who manages bong shop Stoned Henge; his wayward sister Sarah (Rosie Reynolds); cynical tattoo artist Alison (Gwyneth Keyworth); and Dylan Edwards’ beanie-sporting slacker Kent, who has just returned from Bristol after failing to make it as a DJ. These characters may not sound like much – indeed, they have very little in the way of defining characteristics – but as friends they feel deeply connected, especially Morpheus and Kent, lifelong best friends who need each other more than they would perhaps care to admit.
Many of the jokes are admittedly juvenile, crude and thuddingly obvious (one disgusting gag in episode two will put you off naan bread for life). But alongside all this grossness runs a rich seam of playful absurdity which is hard to resist. None more so than a cameoing Sean Bean, who frequently pops up as Morpheus’s spirit guide to help him navigate the tumultuous path from childhood to wasting your twenties. Channeling his Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings characters in full medieval garb, Bean sportingly sends up his entire career in his trademark northern deadpan style and is guaranteed to have you grinning from ear to ear.
Wasted is far from a perfect comedy, and is possibly a bit too obsessed with aping its influences, but with its daft, nostalgic and occasionally sweet depiction of pleasure-seeking youth there’s plenty to enjoy in this latest slice of slacker comedy.