Series / Nathan Barley

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It's gonna be totally fuckin' Mexico, dollsnatch.

The idiots are self-regarding consumer slaves; oblivious to the paradox of their uniform individuality. They sculpt their hair to casual perfection. They wear their waistbands below their balls. They babble into handheld twit machines about that cool e-mail of the woman being bummed by a wolf. Their cool friend made it. He's an idiot too.

Welcome to the Age of Stupidity.

Hail the Rise of the Idiots.
Dan Ashcroft, Sugar Ape Magazine

Nathan Barley is, in the words of his creator Charlie Brooker, "an upper-middle-class London media pissant who sorely deserves an icepick in the cheek." His first appearance was on the TV Go Home spoof website, in channel slot descriptions of a fictional series named Cunt — which was then adapted for a real Channel 4 series. And renamed, for obvious reasons.

The series' six episodes (and one pilot) are set in Hosegate, a fictional area of East London (though remarkably similar to Shoreditch or Hoxton, as anyone who has experienced the arts scenes there would testify). The focus is on the hyperactive, clownish protagonist Nathan in his adventures cataloguing and pioneering the gritty, fashion-obsessed hipster zeitgeist of the time, while shamelessly promoting his personal website Trashbat.co.ck and working at his amateur film studio Trash Industries. Alongside Nathan, we also follow antagonist Dan Ashcroft; a bitter and depressed journalist who is ashamed of his current employer Sugar Ape, a pretentious lifestyle magazine charting the works of various "artists" famous only due to shock value and poor taste. Dan despises Nathan with a passion, but can't seem to shake his omnipresent stench, and is desperately seeking a way out of the madness of the local scene.

Despite the laughs, and its format as a traditional sitcom, it's a rather scathingly-targeted satire of a particular cross-section of media-savvy hipsters. The show was a commercial flop in 2005, and so poorly received upon first airing that Channel 4 changed the timeslot and aired the final two episodes back to back, seemingly in an attempt to get rid of it. As is so often the case however, it has gained a steady cult following since its release on DVD; especially in recent years, as the 'Idiot' subculture it lampoons continues to grow bigger.


Examples:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The night before his interview for a loan, Dan Ashcroft turns up piss-drunk at Trash Industries, where he passes out on a freshly-painted canvas. Needless to say, the interview the next morning doesn't go as planned.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The "Stray" subculture of "straight-gay men", one of whom Dan Ashcroft wanks off in a pub (in the name of Gonzo journalism, obviously).
  • Accidental Pervert: Nathan and Pingu are both happy to stand there staring as Claire changes her shirt in front of them, but Nathan naturally turns on Pingu and claims he was perving on her to try and score brownie points.
  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: Not really acronym-wise, but Jonatton Yeah? regularly likes to use the abbreviation "etcetera", as well as phonetic abbreviations like "bleurgh" and "meow" to express himself.
    Jonatton Yeah?: Actually, I think we should make this the cover feature. It's pretty, you know...meooow...
  • Author Avatar: Dan Ashcroft for Charlie Brooker. Similar dishevelled appearance, misanthropy and occupation.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Over-excited Nathan has the attention span of a pencil. He is often seen in high street stores and cafes, flamboyantly ordering lots of rubbish, then pissing off halfway through when he sees someone whose popularity he can leech off of. He also makes a habit of leaving Claire in the lurch after forcing her to come out with him.
  • Awful British Sex Comedy: Toby is shown casually watching a DVD of Daylight Roddery, a low budget amateur porn video whose star (looking suspiciously like Dr. Guy Secretan) wears goggle eye glasses and aggressively shouts during sex.
  • Baby Talk: Jonatton savages Dan with a mumbling baby accent, after realising Dan is not capable of delivering the 15Peter20 cover feature that he signed up to do.
    Jonatton Yeah?: Do I have to write the article myself Dan and not pay you any munney!?
  • Bad Liar: Dan when he's trying to impress the editor of The Weekend On Sunday. Nathan when he's trying to impress anyone whatsoever.
  • Berserk Button: The usually sedated, depressed Dan Ashcroft seriously spits his dummy out on occasion.
    • At Nathan's Trashbat Party, the crowd's cult-like hero worship of Ashcroft makes him lose his mind. Atop the stage looking down, in full Christian preacher grab, he rants and screams at the Idiots in the crowd with the fury of Hitler, but only succeeds in attracting even more applause. As his breakdown begins to manifest, the background music descends into a frenzied layer of dissonant high-pitched drones and sirens.
      Dan Ashcroft: Stop saying that! I'm not a preacherman! Okay!! I'm not a preacherman! Shut up! SHUT UP!! NO! I'M NOT A PREACHERMAAAAN!!!
    • Earlier in the same episode, Dan lands a late-night gambling windfall. He jumps up in joy, accidentally catching and disconnecting the laptop from the internet cable. After reconnecting and finding his winnings have been lost, he gets so angry that he smashes the laptop to bits.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Claire and Nathan, after their Will They or Won't They? moment. (They won't.)
  • Black Comedy: When a show features the line "I'm Nathan Barley and I like throwing people out of windows" which is then spoken by a character who is being meat-puppeted by another character, there is no other definition.
  • Brick Joke: The fifth episode has Dan continuously dropping items on the floor, presumably from the holes in his pocket. He also seems to have lost his key, so Claire gives him her spare. In The Stinger, he's trying to gt in his house, but can't find the keys, when a builder he wanked off earlier in the episode (and appears to be interested in a relationship with him) appears behind him with it. Dan takes the key from him and opens the door, shutting the builder out.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Nathan does this to the beardy twat in Regime before him and Claire are ejected from the premises.
    • Dan also does this to Claire, insinuating that she's in love with Nathan, but is quickly silenced by a reminder that he owes her money.
  • Butt-Monkey: Nervous, socially awkward Pingu, who is the butt of all of Nathan's jokes and pranks while doing all the actual, behind-the-scenes work of updating Trashbat.co.ck. Nathan treats him so poorly that it almost comes across as psychological domestic violence.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Nathan's friend Toby constantly has girls and sex on his mind almost 24/7. He makes several attempts to seduce Claire but they come across mildly creepy at best. The only time he ever gets any is in the pilot episode when he chats up Dajve Bikinus, his cousin.
    Toby: Hi Claire. Did you do me in my sleep last night?
    • Nathan also fits this, albeit he is a little less conscious about it than Toby. Nathan is superb at dancing, flirting and talking the talk, but his facade immediately crumbles in front of Dajve as soon as she starts hinting towards sex.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Toby to Claire while visiting Pingu in hospital: "Are you alright Claire? Do you want comforting?"
  • Circle of Shame: During the Terrorists Are Gay viewing at the theatre, Nathan becomes an easy target for audience mockery when his Geek Pie haircut is suddenly revealed. He desperately turns to his date Dajve Bikinus, but she's howling with laughter harder than anyone, and she doesn't stop until Nathan has left the building in disgrace.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: When Nathan smashes Claire's camera to stop her interviewing the allegedly 13-year-old model he just got a blowjob from, the TV switches over to an interview with Jonatton Yeah?, who just happens to be revealing that the girl, and all the others featured in Sugar Ape, are actually 6 years older than their stated age. For shits and giggles of course.
  • Compliment Backfire: After Nathan's blowjob from Mandy.
    Nathan Barley: You're an excellent whore.
    *beat*
    Mandy: ...I'll see you later, then.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Claire initially has wide-eyed ambitions about directing documentaries showcasing London's underclass and sociology. When this doesn't entirely pan out, she is forced to accept interviewing Large Ham Doug Rocket every single day, as well as assisting Nathan with producing semi-pornographic wank fodder.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ned Smanks is easily the most spaced out character in the show. He believes that hens are "well dense" (as in lacking intelligence). He thinks Nathans game Cock Muff Bumhole is good, not because "it's rude", but because "it looks like it's good because it's rude!"
    Jonatton Yeah?: Daniel. Rise of the Idiots.
    Ned Smanks: Oh yeah. I rate that easily the best thing I ever read.
    Dan Ashcroft: ...What's the second best thing you've ever read?
    Ned Smanks: Like, books and shit? ...Heidi?
    Dan Ashcroft: Is that a book?
    Ned Smanks: I reckon...
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Claire Ashcroft is pretty much the only character who uses the F word aggressively, and she uses it frequently and with a certain level of agitation and frustration in every episode.
    Claire Ashcroft: This place is a fucking twatstorm!
  • Cringe Comedy: Dan's failed job interview with The Weekend on Sunday is nail-bitingly awful to watch. Even his former college friend-turned-editor Max Herbert gives up on him when asked to list his top five supermarket wines.
    Dan Ashcroft: French...Italian...Spanish...Dutch...and er, French, erm, Southern French...err...
    Geoff Moss: French and Southern French...?
    • Nathan has a ready and willing Claire in his bed, and they're on the cusp of making out, but then Nathan suddenly starts rapping to some reggae beats about sex. It's so horrendously cringeworthy, that it turns Claire off completely in 20 seconds flat.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Not too many of these, but Claire has probably the most aggressively prone personality of them all.
    Nathan Barley: Look, just take a glide pill yeah!
    Claire Ashcroft: Oh, dive on a fucking spike.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jonatton Yeah? is particularly good at this.
    Jonatton Yeah?: Pub et cetera? A nice glass of Dutch wine...?
  • Death Glare: Jones shoots one at Nathan when he touches his record deck during a mixing session.
    • Nathan also gets another one from Claire when she overhears him, Rufus and Ned discussing how they pretended to molest underage models.
  • Deal with the Devil: Jonatton Yeah? forces a cash-strapped Dan to give a handjob to a builder in a men's toilets and write about it before he'll pay him. Dan helplessly agrees to it.
  • Defictionalisation: http://www.trashbat.co.ck
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Ned and Rufus often have to repeat basic sentences and statements to each other, multiple times over, before either of their brains will register anything.
    Ned Smanks: Oh, but he's ill...he's got ill...
    Rufus Onslatt: Yeah, he swallowed a spike!
    Ned Smanks: He got ill 'cause he swallowed a spike!?
    Rufus Onslatt: He got massively ill!!
    • Nathan also misuses the acronym 'AKA' by adding an extra 'as' onto the end.
    Nathan Barley: My desk. AKA as main hub.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Episode 6 in its entirety is basically Dan having a slow, prolonged nervous breakdown, after a nightmare he has ends with the realization that "the idiots are winning". Sanity Slippage and Thousand-Yard Stare becomes more frequent.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Dan hates his job, the people around him and life in general.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In episode 3, Nathan is talking about Place. to Claire while she changes her top, but as he stares at her body, his small talk trails off into slurred gibberish.
  • The Ditz: Toby comes across as a bit devoid of basic social graces and self-awareness; he's not an "idiot" in the Dan Ashcroft sense of the word, more just a "bit simple".
  • Dresses the Same: When Nathan bumps into a hungover, paint-splattered Dan, Dan fools him into believing that his hair has just been styled at the Stanley Knives barber, in a style called a Geek Pie. Nathan immediately rushes over to Stanley Knives to demand the same "style".
  • Drunk with Power: In the last episode, when Dan chances upon the tape of Pingu diving out of the window, he uses it to blackmail Nathan and wrap him around his finger. For pretty much the first and only time in the whole series, Dan actually becomes happy and giddy with excitement, and his demands become more and more insane.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: This trope summarizes the whole premise of the show, in the very first episode. Dan Ashcroft's scathing Sugar Ape cover feature, "The Rise of the Idiots", an attack on the hipster subcultures he deals with every day, is taken completely out of context by the magazine's entire readership and manages to go viral. Even rival magazine editors and television directors end up hailing it as an important, defining cultural milestone, despite Dan's original negative intentions, contributing further to his depression and alienation.
    Nathan Barley: That piece on the Rise of the Idiots, awesome.
    Dan Ashcroft: Thanks.
    Nathan Barley: Totally sums up my credos.
  • Double Take: Some loitering gangsters in the street do several of these when Dan walks past them covered in paint.
    • They do a few more later when Dan walks past them covered in paint with half his hair missing.
  • Double Think: Mandy tells Nathan that her uncle sexually abused her when she was eight. The damage to her psyche is worsened by the fact she doesn't even have an uncle.
  • Downer Ending: Dan has a bad ending in hospital; the last, drugged-up visions he sees are of Claire agreeing to be co-director on Nathan's new TV show.
  • Dude Magnet: Claire Ashcroft, who Nathan, Toby and Pingu all share a massive crush on. The three of them try variously to curry favour and win her affections, but she remains a stoic Ice Queen throughout the series, interested only in her career.
  • Easter Egg: The DVD release features a hidden subtitle track on episode 4, which insults the viewer for being the sort of person who fiddles with the subtitle button on their remote control.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Although it lends him a sizeable amount of local prestige and respect, Dan absolutely despises being called 'The Preacherman.'
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Dan fails to come up with the goods for 15Peter20's cover feature, Jonatton Yeah? steps in and writes it instead. However, he intentionally forfeits credit and maliciously attributes the feature to Dan Ashcroft - earning Dan even more unwanted praise for his "awesome fuckin' opinions" that he didn't even write.
    Dan Ashcroft: You put my name on it!
    Jonatton Yeah?: ...Oh yeah!
    Dan Ashcroft: Why not yours? You wrote it!
    Jonatton Yeah? (referring to 15Peter20): ...Well he's shit, isn't he.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: Dan and Claire are obviously siblings and live together, and Nathan is a huge Sugar Ape and Ashcroft fan. However, Nathan has never actually met Dan nor Claire until the first episode, when they randomly bump into each other in a newsagents, and later in a cafè. The rest of the series follows on from those rather ordinary chance encounters between these three characters.
    • Nathan also meets Dajve Bikinus for the first time at the Exbuse opening night, despite them both having heard a lot about each other beforehand.
  • Evil Debt Collector: One barges into Claire's flat in episode 2 and takes her camera, after presenting a bill for thousands of pounds for an unreturned video rental by Dan over seven years ago.
  • Expy: Not so much a character as a style; the final sequence in the last episode is a clear stylistic lift from another Chris Morris show, Jam.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Dan fails at pretty much everything he attempts throughout the show, and comes across as the ultimate loser. Simple things like trying to prank Nathan, getting a bank loan, trying to write a cover article, not losing his house keys, he has no luck whatsoever. In fact, he can't even get a simple haircut without killing the barber's cat and abruptly leaving with half a head of hair.
    • On the other hand, Dan's nemesis Nathan succeeds at absolutely everything, no matter what. By the time the last episode rolls around, Sugar Ape are even toying with the idea of giving Nathan his own column in their magazine.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The series features numerous brief shots of Sugar Ape photographs and posters, and it's usually worth pausing to read their captions. Also, during the sixth episode, there is a brief shot of a police sign appealing for witnesses to a crime to step forward. The Unreadably Fast Text at the bottom of the sign contains a joke on a subject that anticipates Morris' later project Four Lions, and also insults the viewer for being sad enough to pause the DVD to check whether the shot contains a Freeze Frame Bonus:
    "A man with a handgun robbed the Red Dolphin Kebab Bar. We are 90% certain he was an anti terrorist police officer because they've gone all mental you should see them just trying to tie their shoelaces without shooting the fuck out of everything but just in case it wasn't please call the number below but if it was we are sorry. What are you reading this for your obsessional deviant DVD bandit sodsplit."
  • Hipsters: Nathan and everyone he's proud to be associated with.
    • Dan looks around at the Trashbat Party in episode 2 in utter dismay, to see the Idiots dressed up as scuba divers, beekeepers and Scottish highlanders, amongst other things. And it's not even a designated fancy-dress party, those are just casual clothes! This is before Dan himself is forcibly dressed up as the Preacherman by the baying crowd.
  • Humiliation Conga: In the pilot episode, Nathan epically fails much, much harder than he ever does in the main series, where much of the fail and humiliation is passed off to Dan instead.
    • The conga starts when Nathan giddily promises his crush Dajve Bikinus the leading part in his new film, despite previously promising it to Mandy.
    • He then foolishly copies a "haircut" from Dan, wrongly believing it to be fashionable when it's anything but. He squirms uncomfortably when Dan rocks up with a proper haircut.
    • After bumping into Dajve in the high street, he is so ashamed that he hides the haircut under a handbag of all things, which he is forced to scan the barcode for using his head. He then deserts her and runs off like a sissy after noticing Dan across the street.
    • Once the geek pie is cut off, he attempts to let Mandy down gently about the casting change but chickens out, leading to the most awkward blowjob ever.
    • Dajve and Mandy finally bump into each other in a nightclub with Nathan, where the truth comes out about Dajve getting the part. Mandy takes the opportunity to remind Nathan in front of all his friends about the blowjob and demands payment for her "services".
    • Nathan actually pays her 50 pounds. Toby immediately moves in on Dajve, and the rest of the social group swiftly desert Nathan in the club. Ouch.
  • Hypocrite: Dan and Claire; Dan for scorning the hipsters he was surrounded with while simultaneously being equally pretentious and superficial, and Claire for her efforts to be regarded as a socially conscious, politically aware filmmaker when her key interest was in fact furthering her own media career. Not to mention her criticisms of the model starring in Barley's Bad Uncle video:
    Claire Ashcroft: Her only problem is that she had the whole of Selfridge's by the time she was five.
    Nathan Barley: And you're really against people just being given stuff, yeah?
    Claire Ashcroft: Yes, I am actually!
    Nathan Barley: What, like free cameras and edit gear?
    Claire Ashcroft: That is totally different!
    Nathan Barley: Is it...?
  • Idle Rich: Barley himself, who often hands out his credit card willy nilly for lots of stupidly expensive purchases. Handbags from Bumphuk, haircuts from Stanley Knives, cocaine money for Mandy, etc.
  • Idiot Ball: And Dan wins the race by a nose!
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Nathan decides to prank Pingu using a gun in episode 6. The trope is averted slightly, as Nathan doesn't actually fire the gun; nonetheless, the sight of it is enough to make a terrified Pingu impulsively dive head-first out of a second floor window. Nathan is left stunned and speechless.
  • Incest Subtext: Toby is well keen to rub hottie Dajve Bikinus as he believes he's got some promising signals from her. He also genuinely believes that these signals are nothing to do with the fact they are cousins.
    Toby: I've had some very definite signals, I'm meeting her for lunch.
    Nathan Barley: That's 'cause she's your fucking cousin, you bottle!
    Toby: Er, rubbish mate, it's 'cause I'm on for a mouthful of tits!
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Mostly courtesy of Dan the manic depressive.
    Sasha: Max Herbert doesn't have a punctuated surname.
    Dan Ashcroft: No, but he is a bit of a colon...ha-HA!
  • Jerk Ass
  • Karma Houdini: Nathan Barley himself defines this trope. Despite his repugnant behaviour and some really awful cock-ups (like the Geek Pie haircut), he comes out on top every single fucking time. Unlike Dan Ashcroft.
    • Even after his most crippling, most devastating humiliation at the hands of Mandy (see Humiliation Conga above), he still manages to score with an attractive, hopeful young actress only seconds later.
    • And same again in episode 4; minutes after being universally mocked and laughed out of the theatre for the Geek Pie by a crowd of Idiots, Nathan bumps into two Japanese hipster journalists who proceed to splash him all over their TV channel in Japan as "Mr. Super-Cool".
    • Episode 5 sees Claire attempting to embarrass and humiliate Nathan in front of all his friends, by telling them he got a blowjob from a 13 year old girl, but doesn't expect them to hi-five Nathan at how awesome it is.
  • Kick the Dog: Nathan gets a couple of well-deserved kickings, detailed below. However, as Nathan is also a Karma Houdini, they never last as long as they should...
    • Episode 4 has Nathan being booed, shouted at and laughed at in a theatre full of ultra-cool hipsters, after he disrupts the video being viewed. It ends with his date Dajve laughing him out of the theatre.
    • The entire last episode consists of Dan exacting the revenge he's always dreamed about on Nathan. Over the course of the episode he succeeds in bulldozing Nathan's ego and reducing him to a teary-eyed nervous wreck.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Dan delights in kicking Nathan after the latter realizes just how badly he screwed up with his new haircut.
    Dan Ashcroft: I've got some clippers.
    Nathan Barley: Yeah?
    Dan Ashcroft: I can't lend them to you though.
    Nathan Barley: Why not?
    Dan Ashcroft: I don't know.
  • Large Ham: Flamboyant media bigwig Doug Rocket is missing a few screws, and is aptly described by Claire as "a candle".
    Robin: If I can just show you the figures for last week, erm, we lost, we lost, about four hundred grand last week.
    Doug Rocket: Wow.
    Robin: Yes, and it's going to get worse next week.
    Doug Rocket: ...Have you ever taken acid? Because maybe you should.
  • Magical Accessory: Nathan is never seen without his Wasp T12 mobile phone, which is complete with wireless headset, record deck scratch pads, a business card printer and a gigantic number '5' button.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-Universe: Dan's bitter, loathsome writings against today's fashion earns him hero worship and cult celebrity status amongst almost everyone in East London, making him despise himself even more than he already does.
  • Moment Killer: Nathan's attempted pick-up of Mandy crashes into a deafeningly awkward silence when she suddenly reveals she was fucked by her uncle at the age of eight.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Doug Rocket of the Veryphonics as a fictional stand-in for Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, although a few celebrities were actually harmed, including Vernon Kay.
  • No Respect Guy: "Preacherman" Ashcroft. He always manages to fall at the last hurdle.
  • Not So Different: Dan isn't as different from or superior to Nathan as he likes to think he is. Also Not So Above It All.
  • Only One Name: Pingu, whose real name we never find out. Maybe he doesn't even have one.
    • Also nutty disc jockey Jones.
  • Only Sane Man: How Dan "I Am Not The Preacher Man" Ashcroft seemed to regard himself.
  • The Ophelia: Mandy is an 18-year-old model and cocaine addict, who believes her uncle sexually abused her when she was eight, despite being fully aware that she's never actually had an uncle. This apparently makes the psychological trauma even worse. She goes on to sing and perform in Nathan's hilariously awful "Bad Uncle" video. She generally appears to be a bit unstable, especially when she gives Nathan a blowjob without him really asking.
    • Funnily enough, the actor who portrays her is named Ophelia Lovibond.
  • Phrase-Catcher: If the male Ashcroft is in the room and near any kind of idiots, expect him to be called Preacherman or some variation thereof. He even has an entire nightclub full of idiots chanting it at one stage.
    Intercom: Who's thaaaaaat!?
    Dan Ashcroft: Hawkwind?
    Intercom: Preachermaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!11
  • Porn Names: Nathan markets Trash Industries' latest film on prostitution as a seedy lads' porn flick with the slogan "A-dickory-lickory-doc", and not the serious documentary that Claire intended it to be. Naturally, she is not very happy about this, despite the film's success and recognition by Doug Rocket as a result.
    Claire Ashcroft: 'A-dickory-lickory-doc'? What sort of gimp writes something like that?
  • Precision F-Strike: When Ned and Rufus fail to take Dan seriously over his job interview, he stuns them with a quick, out-of-character "Fuck off!".
  • Running Gag:
    • No matter what Dan says to the intercom at Sugar Ape, whether it's false names or just plain manic depressive groaning, they always manage to guess it's him.
    • Claire constantly being kept awake by Jones' ultra-loud late night mixing sessions, in contrast to Dan who is always shown sleeping through the cacophony like a baby.
    • Every single person who watches Claire's "Junkie Choir" film bursts out laughing at it. Claire is offended every single time. It's meant to be serious, damnit!
    • Dan constantly promising Claire that he'll either "get the money" or "buy you a new one" after her camera is repossessed by debt collectors in episode 2. He never makes good on a single one of his promises.
  • Sadist Show: If there's a moment where any character, no matter how small, can be kicked like a dog, it'll happen. Repeatedly.
  • The Slacker: Dan Ashcroft is as lazy and as unmotivated as they come, and is basically a massive loser, despite his ability to accidentally write a brilliant article every now and then.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Takes a definite swing towards the cynical end, especially by the final episode.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Compare Sugar Ape's drug den-like "offices" to those of The Weekend on Sunday. Dan learns the hard way that he will never, ever make it to the Shiny side.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: At the Sugar Ape offices Dan thinks everyone he knows is an idiot, obsessed with childish pursuits such as comics, toys and fashion. Convinced that he deserves to write for a more mature and sophisticated audience, he goes to The Weekend On Sunday magazine for a job interview. He's confident that he can get the job and move on, but when he is asked about wine, cars and restaurants he is forced to admit that he knows absolutely nothing about any of these more grown-up interests.
  • Smug Snake: Sugar Ape's chief editor Jonatton Yeah?, who is clever, Affably Evil and mildly sociopathic. He likes to poke fun at Dan Ashcroft while simultaneously milking his unwanted popularity as much as he can for the good of the magazine. He seems to share Dan's views on the plebs and morons that surround him, but is a lot smarter and more socially savvy in the way he deals with them.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Almost the entire premise of the show.
  • Take That!: Charlie Brooker created the series as an extended jab at all the Nathan type characters in his life. Fortunately, quality writing allowed the show to avoid becoming a tiresome Author Tract.
  • Take That, Audience!: The police sign. See Freeze-Frame Bonus and Easter Egg.
  • Technician Vs Performer: Claire's interview with Channel Seven becomes this when Nathan invites himself along. Interviewer Ivan Plapp shows vague interest in Claire's ideas for socially-conscious documentaries, but is instantly charmed and swept away by Nathan's ideas for dumb pranks on his website. Nathan eventually wins a contract over Claire, based on no perceivable skill whatsoever, other than pissing other people off.
  • The Prima Donna: 15Peter20 is furious when Nathan crashes his conversation with Dajve Bikinus, and he melodramatically blanks both of them and storms off.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Claire crashes at Nathan's flat after they are kicked out of Regime. Nathan stubbornly insists that Claire have his bed while he sleeps on the couch.
    Claire Ashcroft: You're being too nice.
    *Nathan kubrick stares at Claire*
    Nathan Barley: I know...
  • Those Two Guys: Dan's fellow colleagues at Sugar Ape, Rufus Onslatt and Ned Smanks — two spaced-out gearheads whose minds are almost permanently in an alternate universe. They play their "ideas" off of each other constantly and are rarely seen apart. Also Heterosexual Life-Partners.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Dan is left somewhat catatonic after returning from his straight-on-straight experience in the men's toilets.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Seemingly most of the cast, but special mention must go to the Sugar Ape staff members who ride mobility scooters (top speed: 10mph) along a crowded main street, merrily oblivious to the explosive amounts of road rage they are causing behind them.
  • True Art Is Angsty: Dan is unable to write anything other than scathing critiques and attacks on others.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Sent up in-universe several times, such as with popular groundbreaking artist 15Peter20, whose entire body of work consists of photos of celebrities urinating.
  • Truth in Television: If you live in England you will likely know someone like Nathan and the people he hangs out with.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Dude Magnet Claire at Trash Industries, and the innocuous perving she is subjected to by Nathan and Pingu. Same again at Nathan's flat, only substitute Pingu for Toby.
  • Undying Loyalty: Nathan hero-worships Dan, never really noticing just how much Dan hates his guts. Even after Dan trolls him hardcore in the final episode, he still comes to see him in hospital and offers him a spot on his TV show.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: The police sign. See Freeze-Frame Bonus.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Take your pick.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The series is absolutely peppered with them, almost all originating from Barley himself, although fellow idiots Ned Smanks and Rufus Onslatt also come up with a few.
    Nathan Barley: Kicked her brown door in...painted it white on the way out...
  • Upper-Class Twit: Nathan has access to a lot of his parents' money and very little common sense or intelligence.
  • V-Sign: Dan is quite happy to give a pair of V Signs to his belligerent co-workers after he lands a job interview with The Weekend on Sunday.
    Rufus Onslatt: Double-handed muff, no way man!
    Ned Smanks: Yeah, that's not allowed!
  • Women Are Wiser: Claire and Sasha are the only two recurring female characters in the show, and also the only two regular characters who aren't idiots and don't care to be part of the hipster culture. They're also both very well-grounded and relatively sane.
  • The Wonka: Eccentric is far too light an adjective to describe Doug, with his makeup, colourful suits, gross misappropriation of Place. funds, "ape hours" and his nostalgic anecdote about John Lennon's head bursting through his floorboards. Nevertheless, his accountant Robin makes sure to please him and do whatever he dictates as director of Place.
  • You Look Familiar: Ned Smanks and Rufus Onslatt are both missing from the pilot episode, but the actor who plays Rufus, Spencer Brown, still appears as 15Peter20's PR manager in the art exhibition at Place. This part is played by Jolyon Rubinstein in the main series.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/NathanBarley